Lionel Largaespada: Inspirational Dad
Photos by Luke George Photography
Father’s Day is this month, and to celebrate, we wanted to highlight a local dad who is not only there for his kids, but also for the community. Lionel Largaespada fits that bill. He has given back to our community through both community and civic service and, in partnership with his wife Jennifer, has thoughtfully raised their two daughters, Graciela and Viviana.
Lionel is a first generation U.S. American.
His parents were from Central America and came to the United States to escape the political reality there and to provide a better life for their family. Lionel was born in San Francisco and his parents divorced when he was quite young. Both remarried and Lionel began moving around the country with his mom and stepfather, a surgeon. He ultimately spent most of his youth in Hercules and went to Pinole Valley High School, where he was voted both student body president and class clown in the same year. Lionel would then go on to undergrad at St. Mary’s College of California, where he studied philosophy and government, and then Boston University to pursue his master’s in mass communications.
His passion for politics was clear early-on as he volunteered for political campaigns during both high school and college. He credits his parents and grandparents for fostering this passion within him. “We always talked about current events as a family,” Lionel says, “My grandfathers were the ones that really talked politics in the house — there was historical context to everything they said and believed. It was part of their purpose and reason they came to this country.” His family also imparted this lesson upon him: the best thing you can do in life is be a good servant.
Lionel met his wife, Jennifer, while at school in Boston.
They eventually moved to San Francisco and then, when they were ready to start a family, found Benicia to be the ideal place to settle down. “Fatherhood changed my life, my hopes, my future, how I spend my time,” Lionel says. “I live for my daughters and my wife. I love them more than I love myself.”
Having their daughters also inspired Lionel and Jennifer to get more involved in the Benicia community, first at the school and extracurricular level. Then, with Jennifer’s prompting, Lionel got involved with the Economic Development Board, and then local politics. He is an active volunteer for many local community organizations and events, including Benicia Community Foundation, Benicia Dog Festival, Benicia Grad Night, Benicia Litter Pickers, Benicia Main Street, Benicia Peddlers Fair, Benicia Reads, Benicia Tree Foundation, and the Tim & Jeannie Hamann Foundation. He also supports the Benicia Community Action Council (CAC), Benicia Historical Society, and Kyle Hyland Foundation/Benicia Teen Center. All the while, Lionel also works as the director of marketing at Benicia-based F3 & Associates.
How does he balance being a good father with everything else?
“I do the best that I can, and it isn’t always easy, but I do my best to put [my daughters] first. The role of a dad is to be present, physically and mentally. For me, that means being in the front row of every dance performance and making sure to be there to say goodnight every night,” he answers.
Lionel shares that parenting is “as terrifying as it is joyful.”
He stresses that his and Jennifer’s approach to parenting revolves around the specific responsibility of shaping their daughters’ vision of the world, and never losing sight of what an awesome responsibility that is. Lionel hopes that his leading by example – diving headfirst into what he’s passionate about – will inspire his girls to do the same. His philosophy is never about perfection, but about encouraging them to be persistent and do the best they can. So far, the lessons seem to be working. Both Graciela and Viviana grew up dancing. Graciela, now 18, still dances and is set to pursue studies in public health at Arizona State in the fall. Viviana is still in high school and is pursuing her own passions as an artist, baker, and musician.
Lionel shares his hope that his daughters will remember him as someone who loved them, who gave them everything, and was also kind to everyone he met. “That’s how I spend my days as a father. Providing that example.” He finishes our interview with some learned fatherly wisdom: “Listen first. Lead by example. They don’t like to be preached to.” Hats off to Lionel for being the embodiment of his family’s dreams, for fostering our community, and for his thoughtful views on parenting.