Obituary for Ofelia Mendez – (1954-2021) – Yuma, AZ

Ofelia M. Solano

April 19, 1954 – February 16, 2021

With 2.5 million COVID-19 deaths in the world and on the threshold of the United States, the milestone of half a million deaths is reached and only 15% of the US population will be vaccinated. On February 16, Yuma County lost one of its most popular long-term residents, Ofelia Solano, who was a victim of the pandemic.

Sixty-six years ago in a provincial village in Baja California del Norte called Ejido de Plan de Ayala, a tender little girl named Ofelia Mendez was born in a house with the help of a midwife for the caring parents of Carmen Paramo and Marcos Mendez. She was the fifth child of 11 siblings. To better understand the story of Little Ofelia we need to go back in time and unpack the family trip. Her parents were born and raised in Puruandiro, Michoacan, where they had two children, in southwest Mexico about 1,500 miles away. Her father had come to the United States as a farm laborer during the Bracero program in the 1940s. It was this desire for a better way of life that inspired Little Ofelia’s parents to move to and settle in the northern Mexican states. They initially settled in the Mexicali region with their two children. Her mother was a devoted housewife and her father worked as a truck driver loading and unloading the cotton crop in Baja California. They soon had two more children and eventually Little Ofelia. Three other children were born in the Mexicali area. In 1960 the family moved to San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico, where Ofelia’s last three siblings were born.

Little Ofelia first finished elementary school and then spent her time helping her mother look after the house with all of her siblings. As her dear sister Rosa recalls, they spend hours tidying up the house, ironing and cleaning clothes. Eventually Little Ofelia became a beautiful young woman at the age of 18, Miss Ofelia Mendez, as she was then called, was sponsored by her father and became a legal resident of the United States. At this point she gained financial independence and began working in the fields in California and Arizona.

Ofelia worked at Yuma Citrus five years later. While working in this packaging factory, she met her charming prince: Javier Solano. Mr. Right was only 17 years old and had recently graduated from Yuma High School. His family was also a migrant worker family who came from the neighboring Mexican state of Jalisco.

After much wooing and wooing, Ofelia finally fell in love with Javier’s charm, who was three years her junior. Their love peaked on December 9, 1977 when they got married, and she moved to Yuma permanently, becoming known as Ofelia Solano thereafter.

There love manifested itself through the birth of her primogeniture, Fernando Solano. Two years later they had their second precious baby, Carmen Solano. The lovemaking continued and two years after the birth of their little girl, another charming boy was born, Eloy Solano. Finally, eleven years after their marriage, their last loving boy, Javier Solano Junior, was born.

Ofelia continued to work with her husband as a farm worker with a migrant background. They worked in the lettuce and citrus harvest in Yuma County, and then traveled to Fresno County annually to work during the summer garlic and onion harvest. Their dedication and hard work eventually paid off in realizing another American dream, buying their first home in 1984. They bought a new home in the Villa Cordova neighborhood. Fortunately, Ofelia’s sister, who was two years her junior, also bought the house behind her sister. Rosa Mandujano, as her sister is called today, was her lifelong friend, neighbor and younger sister. As Rosa describes their relationship, we were like peas and carrots. Conveniently, as they were literally close neighbors, they raised their children together.

Ofelia was also a devoted woman and never hesitated to remember the various milestones in life. When she and her husband reached their first marriage landmark, they celebrated their crystal wedding party and silver wedding anniversary with a lot of fanfare.

She also always celebrated the birthdays of her children and grandchildren. So she couldn’t resist when the time came to throw a growing up celebration for her only daughter, Carmen. otherwise known as the Quinceaera Party. The party was done with all the bells and whistles.

After she was a nursing mother and taught good work values, her four children became adults and married and had children of their own. Today Ofelia was the proud mother of a school teacher, an electrician and a hospice counselor. She is survived by six adorable grandchildren: Xavier, Sophia, Samantha, Selah, Jacob, and Jared.

Ofelia was a staunch Catholic and attended weekly Mass in the Mission of Notre-Dame de Guadalupe. She raised her children in the Catholic faith and led them to the fulfillment of the Catholic sacraments. Like baptism, first communion and confirmation. In Hispanic culture, the godparents for these sacraments are known as compadres who serve and become coparents and lifelong friends. Ofelia is survived by Juanita and Hector Carmona, who were Fernando’s godparents; Isabel and Raul Alvarez were Carmen’s godparents; Efrain Mandujano was Eloys godfather and Robert (deceased) and Lucy Guevara were the godparents of Javier Junior.

It should be noted that Ofelia and her loving husband continued to work as immigrant farm laborers in California until this final crop in the summer of 2020 during the pandemic. Since farm workers are considered essential workers, she was accidentally a front line worker. She had an incredible work ethic. It was her 45th year and she has never missed a year of harvest. She worked as a tractor driver and worked 12-14 hours, six days a week.

Ofelia became a US citizen on May 16, 2016 and voted for the first time in the 2016 presidential election.

Fernando remembers his mother by saying: Mom, you paint my life with so many colors. You always filled me with energy. You showed me that I have faith. Your care and advice will always guide me. In your collected silence you understood my many tears. You were by my side, laughing and partying during my victories. They also taught me to learn from my mistakes and upsets. You always protect me with your prayers. Your look inspires me and seeing you brings me happiness. For all of these reasons and many more. I love you mam. Rest in peace.

Carmen remembers, mother, I want to thank you for always being the pillar of the family and being there for us in our difficult moments when we needed you most. They always brought joy to the family, even when we weren’t in the mood to celebrate. You have always enlivened the family. They always turned the little things into big things. You have always been very involved with your grandchildren, whether in church or school. You have always given us good values. You gave good advice. You were a woman of faith. You always wanted to celebrate our birthdays. You liked to throw a party and dance; Even though you didn’t drink alcohol, you were like the bouncer at our parties. You had such a zest for life. You were the best of all time and you have everything under control! For example when I sold my house. You helped me pack everything. I remember you saying my little girl did the packing when you actually were. They always had everything under control and always took care of everyone else.

Like any great story, Ofelia’s life at the Yuma Regional Medical Center tragically ended during her battle with COVID on February 16, 2021.

Wake: Thursday, March 4, 2021, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., 775 S 5th Ave., Yuma, AZ 85364

Rosary prayer: Thursday, March 4, 2021, 7 p.m., at the above address

Funeral Liturgy: Friday, March 5, 2021, 10:00 a.m., Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, 505 S Ave B, Yuma, AZ 85364

Worship Service: Friday, March 5, 2021, 11:00 a.m., Desert Lawn Memorial Park, 1550 S 1st Ave., Yuma, AZ 85364

The volunteer pallbearers are Fernando Solano, Eloy Solano, Javier Jr. Solano, Xavier Cadriel, Efrain Jr. Mandujano, and Rey Mandujano.

Anyone who wants to make a donation here has some links to do with it:

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Posted in Yuma Sun on March 4, 2021.

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