A Tribute to My Mother-In Law Josefa “Chefa” Varela Lucero


Chefa, as we all lovingly called her, was born on February 26, 1920, she died November 13th, 2014, she was almost 95 years old.

My husband, Art, wrote a beautiful eulogy for his mother and he gave me permission to  publish some of his thoughts.

“Mom was a simple, unassuming, uncomplicated person; and yet, she had an extraordinary and long life.  Her entire life revolved around two things:  Her church and her family.  Her family had a tradition of serving the church.  She even lived on the San Jose church grounds.  As a young child she helped build the old Cristo Rey Chapel.  She recalled carrying buckets of water for the adobes.  As she got older, she moved on to cleaning the chapel and later, the formal church, and eventually, washing and ironing the church linen and priestly garments.  She carefully examined, and re-examined the garments to make sure there were no wrinkles of any kind.  After she was satisfied, came the task of taking them back to church.  No easy task, being that mom didn’t have a car.  We would walk the garments on outstretched arms hoping we would not drop or the wind blow something off the hangers.”

“Years later, came the cooking at the church kitchen:  Tacos, Menudo, and the old favorites gorditas to raise money for the church.  She also washed, repaired and fixed stuffed toys to sell at the church for the young kids to buy.  Finally, came the recycling of aluminum cans.  At family get togethers, eagle-eyed mom was on the lookout.  No one could throw a can in the trash without mom commenting, “para la iglesia.”  It didn’t take long before the whole family got into the act.  Her joy and pride would always be apparent when she collected sufficient money to purchase the needed garments or linens for the annual “Fiesta de Cristo Rey.”

“In 2001, she was recognized by the Diocese for the long service to the church.  Being an extremely humble person, she was somewhat embarrassed by the recognition and attention, but very appreciative.”

“I once asked her what her happiest moments were and she quickly replied:  “When I had you kids.”  She had a total of 11 children.  Seven survived – two daughters, and five boys.  Six were a year or so apart.  What a hand full  we must have been.”

“How she cooked meals early on by herself and on a wood burning stove, we can only imagine.  Making six to eight dozen tortillas at every meal along with caldos, caldillos, papas, avenas, cereales, veggies and snacks; and my all time favorite:  Beans.  de olla, refritos, con queso, con chorizo, con chile rojo and so on.”

“She was quite the efficiency expert.  She would form assembly lines with the older kids to help with cooking, washing, and bathing.  Saturday night baths were like watching a Keystone cops movie.”

“She was a nurse extraordinaire.  Her knowledge of herbs and home remedies, taught to her by our great-grandmother, Mague, kept not only us, but some of the neighborhood kids healthy.  Scrapes and cuts, form a line, Nurse Lucero is on the job 24/7.”

“Yes, she was busy, but had time to play.  Jump rope with the girls, trompos, marbles, and catch, with the boys. We all remember the mud ball fights after a nice rain.  The clay soil could be formed into a small mud ball.  Our mom could fling a clay mud b all with the best of her kids!”

“For a significant time she was a single parent of six.  During this time, I can only describe her as a financial wizard.  Taking a few dollars a week, usually earned through the sweat of her brow, and providing us with our basic needs.  She either cleaned a few houses or ironed someone’s clothes to earn money.””

Recycling was also the order of the day, even before it became fashionable.  My sisters wore dresses made by mom from flour sack material.  I can still remember the white sacks with flower patterns.  Careful deliberation was given in the purchases so as to not select the same pattern often.  The younger boys received some hand-me-downs, everything always mended and cleaned.  Although she only had a third grade education, she would help us with our home work and encourage us to do well in school.””

Her life got a bit easier as we all grew older one by one we began to work or join the military.  Each of us helping support the younger ones, finally just mom.  Oh, but then came the 60 or so gran, great-grand, and great-great-grand kids, many of whom she helped raise in some fashion or another.  All of them gave her tremendous joy.  And, for the rest of her life, mom was showered with their hugs and kisses.””

Mom’s last few days were spent at home surrounded by all her kids, young and old.  Never alone, 24 hours a day, with sounds of family close by, just as she wished.  She passed with grand-kids holder her hands and in the presence of her two loving daughters.”

“Mom was indeed an extraordinary mother, not because she made any grand contributions to society or the world, but because she met and exceeded her everyday challenges year after year, after year.”

“Mom is no longer with us, but our memories of her will be passed on for generations to come.”

I just wanted to add, that when I met Chefa, I thought she had a formidable stature.  I felt a bit intimidated by her at first, but as I got to know her better, I understood why she had to be that way.  So many years struggling to raise her children.  All the sacrifices, and all the work she had to do were all well worth it to her because at the end one by one all children became great assets to society.

Thank you, Chefa, for your great example!

I also want to thank all the family members, young and old, who were constantly looking after our daily needs, whether, physically or emotionally, and who contributed so much by their presence, by bringing coffee, doughnuts, goodies and even food to the hospital.  And especially those who were ever-present at Chefa’s side. We don’t have enough words to say and want to show our appreciation by thanking you publicly at this time.

Love and thanks,

Art and Carmen Lucero

3 thoughts on “A Tribute to My Mother-In Law Josefa “Chefa” Varela Lucero

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