Maria was many things to many people, a strong-willed wife, a mother to seven sometimes good, but often-rowdy sons, Patrick, Robert, Steven, Henry, Raymond, David, Ted and two daughters, Louise and Carla.
Raymond and Ted were ultimately raised by her two sisters, Cordelia and Elsie. She was often deserving of other labels, such as a behind the scenes politician, a working woman outside the home (when it was not acceptable), a woman who always spoke her mind, right or wrong, and whether you liked it or not, a religious seeker who eventually found her spiritual home.
As the main disciplinarian, her children have memories often shared with laughter of those “spare the rod, spoil the child” incidents if you have a few years to spare. Some of her grandchildren were not immune to her discipline as many of them remember a yardstick kept for such events.
Maria, who came from a large Latino family, knew the meaning of doing without during the Great Depression. Her father Jose Rufino, who worked in law enforcement, and mother Elena held the family together during those tough days, but securely taught Maria to save for a rainy day, resulting in an overstocked food pantry the rest of her life plus mastering the art of recycling before it was socially responsible to do so.
Maria, the last member of Jose Rufino and Elena Trujillo’s immediate family, left this world, family and friends at the age of 90 last weekend. She was termed a “sharp cookie” by many during her lifetime and it was not uncommon to see her direct dial a state senator and perhaps even a U.S. senator’s office to communicate her disdain for a political agenda or oftentimes to ask for direction or guidance regarding a personal or family matter. They knew better than to place her “on hold.”
She was born and raised in a small town in northern New Mexico, Costilla. Maria and her family lived and worked on a small farm. She married twice, but married the love of her life the second time around, a returning solider from World War II, Clodoveo Rivera. Together they raised a family who remember working the fruit orchards of Colorado’s western slope, enjoying the beauty of Silverton, Colo., living temporarily in Stockton, Calif., and returning to the enchantment of northern New Mexico between Costilla and Taos.
Last week, her son Henry visited her for the last time. He experienced emotional devastation, as Maria initially did not recognize him. The next day she was bright-eyed, alert and ready for at least a partial recovery it seemed. Sensing her alertness, Henry asked “Mom do you know who I am?” Sending a newfound emotion straight to his heart, she replied, “Mi Henry.”