Our beloved mother, sister, aunt, and grandmother Maria V. Garza Esparza, 88, of Canby, Oregon, headed off to the fiesta in the sky June 1, 2019, with mariachis serenading her and a shot of tequila in her hand. She was born February 14, 1931 in Yorktown, Texas to Pedro Garza and Carolina Quintania. She was married to Roberto Esparza on July 30, 1947, and they had five children.
In the early 50’s, Maria and Roberto moved from Texas to the Yakima Valley in Washington and joined other farm working families that migrated to the area in search of better lives. She travelled with her family working the many crops produced across Washington and Oregon. During the 1960s, they started a farm labor contracting business that helped provide labor and harvesting equipment to various farms across the region. They started this business to help migrant workers receive a fair wage and working conditions while also creating positive relationships with the farmers across the region.
During her time working in the fields and managing labor crews, Maria had a passion for helping other farm workers that were less fortunate. She took up an interest in women’s health issues. She would routinely volunteer at health clinics and fairs assisting medical providers with translations and communicating health topics to migrant farm workers.
In the early 70’s, she was sponsored by a local doctor and invited to attend a medical education program where women were taught medical specialties. In order to do this, she had to leave her family in Washington and live in Los Angeles for 2 years. Realizing what this opportunity meant for her family and community, she attended the program and became the first bi-lingual, female Physician Assistant in Sunnyside, WA. She began her career at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Sunnyside and worked there for 15 years. She then went on to work for several other women’s health clinics from Yakima to the Tri-Cities. She helped guide the healthcare of thousands of women during her 30 plus year (2nd) career in women’s health. She also boldly claimed that she helped educate thousands of men, that might be attending a visit with their female partner, on their role in their partner’s well-being.
Maria was an active parishioner of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Sunnyside. Her and Roberto loved their church and routinely volunteered and provided resources to the church and school.
In her free time, Maria loved going out with Roberto and their friends to Spanish dances throughout the Yakima Valley. She loved Tejano music, mariachi music and cooking - especially with a cold drink in her hand. She looked for any opportunity to throw a party and routinely had her family and friends at her home for holidays, birthdays, and just to be together.
Her grandchildren were the most precious people in her life, and they could do no wrong in her eyes. Her grandchildren remember all being spoiled by their grandmother with love, gifts, and most importantly hugs and wisdom when needed.
Maria is preceded in death by her husband Roberto Esparza, her daughters Norma Esparza and Nelda Gastelum, and her grandson Robert Gastelum. She is survived by her children Velma (Ernie) Macias, Robert (Beth) Esparza, Roger (Shelby) Esparza and 18 grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Maria’s final wishes were to be cremated, not to have a traditional funeral or be buried. She asked that her family and friends enjoy good food and a drink with her when the time was right. Her family is planning a fiesta for her and people interested in getting details about this should contact her grandson Rick Gastelum at email@example.com Those wishing to sign Maria’s online memorial book may do so at www.funeralhomesmith.com Smith Funeral Home in care of arrangements.
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