In 1894, just one year after the Noriega Hotel was opened, on the other side of the Atlantic ocean, in the Basque village of Anhaux, Gracianne Laporte was born. Following in her sister’s foot steps, Gracianne left the Basque country, arriving in the United States in 1914. She worked in Tehachapi at the Franco-American Hotel. She met her future husband Jean Elizalde. They would have four children, Albert, Louie, Jeanne (married Joe Mendiburu) and Marie Veronica, who married John “Five” Ansolabehere. After a venture into the sheep business, husband and wife leased the New Commercial Hotel on Sumner Street. Jean and Grace (her new American name) took over the management of the Noriega Hotel in 1931. Jean passed away soon after, leaving Grace to run Noriega’s and raise the children.
Basque grandmothers are fierce protectors of their grandchildren and “Mama Elizalde’s” service extended to helping the unfortunate, family and friends alike – a truly legendary woman. She was a venture capitalist, before the term was coined, helping businesses in Old Town Kern with seed money.