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Gonzalez Funeral Home

7209 North Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, FL

OBITUARY

Maria Ernestina Reyes

November 11, 1926June 3, 2019

Maria Ernestina Reyes, 92, "Mamia" as she was lovingly called by her grandkids and many who met her late in her life, passed away peacefully surrounded by love on June 3, 2019, after a 12 year courageous battle with dementia/alzheimer’s.

She was born in El Retiro, San Luis, Pinar del Rio, Cuba. In Cuba, she was a 3rd to 5th grade teacher, who impacted and encouraged her students, many of which stayed in touch with her after her arrival in America in 1966. In the USA, she began working in the electronics industry ultimately becoming an assembly supervisor.

Preceded in death by her husband of 44 years, Mario; brothers: Machito, Miguel, Chucho; sisters: Evelia and Mirta; and her parents Bernardo and Rufina.

Mamia is survived by her son Mario & his wife, Marta (grandkids Michael and Michelle); her daughter Ana & her husband, John (grandkids Natalie and Stephanie); and many nieces and nephews most of whom remain in Cuba. Mamia was an extremely dedicated, loyal wife and loving supportive mother and grandmother.

She was very courageous and strong, and continued to demonstrate that throughout the progression of her disease. She was known for her detailed stories. She loved to garden and any plant she touched flourished! A great cook, known for her many giant plate sized pancakes, quiche, dulce de leche, sopa de panetela, pollo con limon, stuffed pierna asada, arroz relleno decorated with a flower created with hard boiled eggs and pimentos, and many other special “unwritten” recipes. She would win anyone's heart with her beautiful smile, which she maintained throughout her life, even as she took her last breath and met the Lord.

Mamia’s favorite color was yellow so the family encourages you to feel free to accessorize with yellow during the visitation and mass.

The family would like to thank Riverwood ALF and their staff for the loving care she received, as well as LifePath Hospice of Hillsborough County Garnett team, especially Chuck Andrus.

Mamia loved children and as her disease progressed, they brought even more of a glowing smile to her face. In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation be made in her memory to benefit hospitalized children. Donations may be made for the benefit of Tampa’s first acute care facility dedicated solely to children:

St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital Foundation, 2700 W Dr Martin Luther King Blvd. Suite 310, Tampa, FL 33607.

Donations are tax deductible.

Her Eulogy...

Thank you so much for sharing your love and support with us today as we honor and celebrate Mamia, the eternal gardener and detailed story teller.

Isaiah 61:11 “For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations”.

Mamia was a courageous woman, responding to challenges and trials with gratitude. She had courage to come to a new country and leave her entire family behind, courage to work in a new industry where she could not easily communicate due to a language barrier, courage to follow the Lord’s word and teach it to my brother and I, courage to figure out how to make ends meet and provide for her children, courage to fight dementia with new understanding.

My mom never complained about not having enough or needing a bigger home or newer car or more clothes. She cherished what she had and loved to take care of it, but she also enjoyed getting elegantly dressed up. She was fabulous at curling her hair with rollers on weekends and giving herself french manicures and pedicures. No blow out bars or nail salon trips for her…imagine the savings….yet everyone complemented her looks!

Growing up mom and dad worked long hours, then mom would come home and cook incredible tasty meals, rarely complaining about the chores or her work. She loved “el palo y la balleta”…the “cuban mop” and oh how she loved to wring it dry. So much so that in the last few years of her life as dementia worsened, she used to take her blanket on her lap or bed and wring it like a mop. Some mornings she would wake up with her blanket completely curled up on her chest. In Miami, she would polish our wood floors in the duplex til they had a high mirror sheen. Everyone made fun of her cleaning obsession, but that did not stop her enjoyment of making our home as pretty, neat, clean, and organized as possible because she was so proud and thankful for what we had.

Mamia had the biggest green thumb! She could make a leafless plant cutting grow into a beautiful new plant more flourished than the last. She would often leave her friends’ and families’ homes with sticks she had cut from their gardens wrapped in wet paper towels and foil, nourishing them into a beautiful new plant. She would get so excited with the new blooming ‘enrredaderas’ from cuttings she took from her Tampa relatives that she couldn’t find in Miami! I will admit sometimes as a teenager it seemed annoying when she would say, “Mayito, esperate, para el carro que quiero cortar una matica que vi!” Imagine my dad’s patience in stopping the car so she could get her wish. Now, think about all the money they saved by avoiding shopping trips to buy plants and how much more cherished those little sticks and plants were because they came from family and friends’ homes. Their savings, along with other frugalness, helped pay for my brother’s and my catholic education. Thankfully, a few of those little starter plantings mom would bring my brother and me, remain blossoming in our yards, but we will miss seeing her joyous smile, creating and sharing new ones with us.

The times when I was young and mom sat next to me in our tiny kitchen table patiently teaching me how to draw images of little ducklings in ponds, are ingrained in my heart. The teacher in her, would tell me: “its simple, start by drawing the number 2 and then finish the ducks body, add the yellow sun, pajaritos like the top of a letter M, and squiggly water”. She never said no to those simple drawing moments with me. While I attempted to create a drawing as beautiful as hers, she would sit with a smile on her face and write letters to her mom, dad and siblings back in Cuba. She would tell them everything was wonderful, even though her heart was broken that she could not be with them again, and that things in America were not always easy for her. I cannot imagine ever going through the separation she did. That takes courage and she did it with gratitude.

When dad died 21 years ago, I did not want mom to go back to Miami and start her new life without dad because I was afraid. I prayed to God to give me guidance to accept what I could not change. “ILUMINAME DIOS”, like she taught me to ask. Less than a month after dad died, I gave mom a cross necklace for her birthday. I looked into her eyes like never before and told her that I knew God would keep her safe and protect her, like she had taught me to believe. After several months, she decided to return to her cherished, brightly colored, yellow house on the corner in Miami. She taught me again that she had the courage to confront whatever discomforts were to come in her life without dad, because she had faith.

So many of you have experienced your own journeys with loved ones and this or other diseases. We know what the trials are. Mom spent her life teaching me gratitude for all we had, and I’ve been grateful in new ways for these years despite dealing with debilitating dementia. I began to see The Lord was providing me new opportunities to be grateful. As Mamia began to forget, she became more ok enjoying events outside the house for the first time in her life without dad. She began to see the world through childlike eyes. She had fun doing silly things like never before, like trying on funny hats at target, feeding the giraffes at the zoo, rattling cowbells at a Rays game, giving my brother and I kisses during our visits, many times on her own terms to mess with us, and laughing a lot. One of the frustrating things the disease took away was Mamia’s ability to tell detailed stories and give me advice and words of wisdom. Many cousins have told me how they enjoyed the impact of her advice and talks through the years. With her speech loss, we resorted to asking yes or no questions or she would answer making funny faces using familiar mannerisms.

I am grateful for so many things throughout this journey: my brother and the daily care he and Marta and the kids helped provide her, my kids ability to make her laugh and staying in touch through FaceTime, John supporting me through difficult times, the love and gentleness mom’s caregivers showed her over the last five years of her life, and Mamia recognizing and loving Mayi and me until the end.

But I am most grateful, for the long goodbye I got to have that so many others don’t get with their parents, for God granting me the opportunity to see my mom, with her 21 year old cross necklace still hanging from her neck, give the most gentle, peaceful, joyful, smile as she took her last breath to begin her heavenly journey with dad and regain the ability to retell detailed stories to all her loved ones who left before her.

Mamia

M- maravillosa madre y jardinera A- always well dressed and attractive M- meticulosa I- intelligent teacher A- animated story teller

Mamia, thank you for the letter you left behind reminding us to love one another as God loved us, to practice forgiveness, and to know and accept that it IS your joyous time in God’s eternal hands.

Mamia, te quiero mucho y duerme con los angelitos.

Services

  • Visitation Friday, June 7, 2019
  • Funeral Mass Friday, June 7, 2019
  • Committal Service Friday, June 7, 2019

Memories

Maria Ernestina Reyes

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Emma Lopo-Sullivan

June 8, 2019

There are so many treasured memories that it would be impossible to list them all here: Her warm welcome and hugs any time I arrived at the house will always be cherished, her laughter and those incomparable twinkling eyes; her joy every time the love of her life walked into the room; the stories of ONLY right turns when she learned to drive 😂; and so many more. Mayi and Any, you’ve both been in my prayers. May the good Lord wrap you in His loving arms.
Mil abrazos,
Emma y familia

Jose Manuel Antelo-Cordoves

June 5, 2019

Por circunstancias de la vida, no pude conocerla personalmente. Pero lo que siempre admiré en ella es su apego a la familia y a sus raices.
Poseo una imagen bonita de tres niñas que conservo con cariño y que comparto con todos.
Llegue a mis primos Mayi y Ana Lina mi sentido pésame y apoyo.

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY