Maria Garcia Roach

July 16, 1915March 27, 2018
Obituary of Maria Garcia Roach
Maria Roach’s strength and vitality carried her throughout more than a century of living, where she still lived in her home on Sherbrook well into her 90s and then her at the Kensington until she was almost 103 years young. Maria’s more than fifty years of marriage to her doting husband, Hugh Roach, was surrounded by laughter, love, travel to every corner of the earth with dinner parties and cruises and opras and adventures that would take up many miniseries! In 2009, Maria Roach honored her father and her mother’s social justice work by starting the Dr. Alberto G. Garcia Scholarship in 2009 in her father and mother’s honor—our great, great grandparents. Both her father Dr Garcia and her mother Eva (who, incidentally, was also a nurse like Aunt Maria) settled in Texas to practice medicine as the first US trained Mexican American physician to practice in Austin and were dedicated to gaining social equality and justice for Mexican Americans. Through the medical profession and by creating, editing, and publishing the first Spanish-language newspaper in Austin, La Vanguardia, from 1920 through 1921, they encouraged the Texas Hispanic community to become literate in English, understand the voting process, and encourage voter registration and property ownership (a prerequisite for voting at that time), so that the Mexican-American community could improve the status of its citizens. Maria Roach’s scholarship fund created an endowment that would encourage journalism students to follow in her mother and her father’s footsteps in fighting for social justice, seeking racial, ethnic, and political rights for all Americans. This scholarship was only one of the many, many scholarship funds that she and her husband Hugh created for the promising students at the universities attended by her, her late husband, and her father. These institutions include the UT Austin School of Journalism, the Tulane University School of Medicine, Oxford University’s Christ Church, and the School of Journalism at Concordia University in Montreal. After attending The University of Texas at Austin in the 1930s, she trained as a nurse anesthetist at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. She taught anesthesia to medical students and physicians from the Tulane University School of Medicine. It was during this time that she wrote letters home, missing her family and the life there, but describes her busy life as an RN, doing rounds until 3 or 4 am in the morning, catching the eye of her supervisors as a diligent and thorough nurse who routinely juggled neglected patients with gaping bedsores, the victims of drunk driving accidents, once diagnosing cancer in a young woman well before the scores of doctors sent in could do so (at 23, she said “four and then five doctors wouldn’t just admit that she had cancer and it was so obvious that when they opened her up and saw it staring right at them, the tried to seem baffled but all the clues were there weeks ago”) and young boys who tried committing suicide rather than going to war—all the while juggling a very rich social life, attending this banquet and that social dance at night and seeing every new show that came to the theaters. A few months later, she describes a graduation exercise that seems to foreshadow her own position as nurse and angel. “Last night, I went to the graduation exercises of Municipal Hospital…all the girls were dressed in all white nurses uniforms and then carried bouquets of red roses in one arm and in the left had, they each carried lighted white candles. The auditorium was in darkness as they marched down to the stage.” She was under 25 during these musings—the same time period that she also earned her private pilot license at the New Orleans Municipal Airport. Before she headed off to war as a Red Cross nurse with pilot training, she describes her feelings about the international scene, “This war situation!! It is getting me down. I wish the US will make up her mind. Now that Italy has gone in, I think it's just a matter of days before we go in—if Roosevelt does what he insinuates he will do if Mussolini acts. Being a Red Cross Nurse, and all Red Cross Nurses are, I am sitting on pins and needles.” At the outbreak of hostilities with the Axis powers, she volunteered her services to the Army Air Corps in 1942. It was during this time that she had initially intended to accompany Tulane’s hospital unit for deployment as a field hospital, but due to her pilot training and nursing experience she was instead selected to join the fledgling Army Air Corps Medical/Air Evacuation system at Bowman Field, Kentucky, where she received her military pilot wings. It was during this time that First Lieutenant Maria Garcia attended numerous wounded soldiers during evacuation flights to the United States from the battlefields of North Africa, Asia, and Europe. She would frequently pilot some of these flights as a relief pilot, as she was qualified to fly four-engine aircraft. She subsequently became an instructor in air evacuation at Randolph Field, Texas. A decorated Army Air Corps officer, she continued serving her country with the State Department after the war. After the war, she became the person that perhaps many of you knew. After meeting and marrying Uncle Hugh, she moved to Montreal and traveled the world and all of its cities inside and out several times over. But she never forgot her roots, her family. How long, but how quick her own life was, a quick 102 years. How fast our own lives are going, how we all live in our bodies, these quick vehicles that speed through life, thinking that we have to do this and that, rush here and there, hurry. Make decisions. Argue. Laugh. Go. Repeat. But what if we took the time to reflect, like Maria did in the form of her letters, her actions, her words, her daily path. What if we too slowed down long enough to take a conscious bite out of the marrow of life, experience it consciously and deliberately, expanding what we want out of our lives through deliberate action—but all the while always reaching out and taking with us our mothers, our fathers, our sisters, our brothers, our neighbors, our fellow travelers. Let us be our own airplane fighter pilot! Let us use our moments to stand up for what is right! To you, Aunt Maria, we salute you, we send you off into the next great unknown with joy, with blessings, with thanks for making our world that much better with your laughter, your kindness, your zest for living. I’ll leave you all with one last quote, “I’ve got the Gypsy in me bad. I want to be moving and doing things.” In lieu of flowers, please donate to your most cherished social justice organization. Also, take yourself on a date and celebrate your life and living and celebrate the gypsy in you! There are so many other incredible instances of social justice and love that she sent out into the world. There was a service celebrating Maria Esperanza Garcia Roach’s life on Friday April 20, 2018 at Collins Clarke Funeral Chapel, 5610 Sherbrooke St West H4A1W5

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Past Services

Friday, April 20, 2018

Memorial Service (condolences from 10:30am)

Friday, April 20, 2018