Beatrice Kozera, who died on 15 August at the age of 92, was a Los Angeles-born woman whose fleeting relationship with Jack Kerouac was chronicled in the author’s greatest novel, On the Road, in which she was known as “Terry, the Mexican girl”.
Kozera learned only a few years ago that her 15-day relationship with Kerouac in the farmworker labour camps of Selma in 1947 featured in his famous Beat Generation novel that was made into a film last year.
The author Tim Hernandez tracked down Kozera, who was also known as Bea Franco, while he was researching her story for a novel due to be published later this month in the US called Mañana Means Heaven. Melding fact and fiction, the book explores the relationship between Kerouac and a migrant farmworker based on Kozera.
Hernandez interviewed Kozera several times after finding letters and a postcard she had written to Kerouac, who died aged 47 in 1969 from the effects of long-term alcohol abuse, at the New York Public Library. “As far as she was concerned she was a normal, ordinary person who at one point in her life met a man,” he said. “She never knew that this gentleman Kerouac ever became anything. When I first told her that there were over 20 Kerouac biographies that had included her name, her reply was, ‘Why? My life wasn’t so special.’”
Kozera spent most of her early years following her farmworker family in California’s fields and eventually settled in Fresno.