Monday morning I received some extremely distressing news that brought me to tears. Sadly I learned that my friend and former coworker Ofelia Gonzales passed away Sunday evening. I knew she had been battling cancer but had no idea she was doing so poorly. The last time I spoke with her was by email back in March. Although I asked her how she was doing, she was more interested in learning how my retirement was going and how my grandchildren were doing than talking about her condition. When I inquired again she simply said that she was having some health issues but was dealing with them. I tell you, she was an incredible woman and a private person, I respected that and pressed no further. I tried contacting her over the summer but got no response. Now I understand why.
I read on her churches bulletin board that she passed away peacefully with a smile on her face, surrounded by her family after listening to the song “God of this City.” I can only imagine how radiant she must have looked, she had a beautiful smile. She will be missed.
I had the good fortune of working with Ofie at Azusa High School for thirteen years. She was the secretary for the assistant principal of guidance and worked closely with the counselors. We were one big happy family. Ofie and I shared the distinction of having started working in the guidance office together back in September of 97. I remember meeting her for the first time and thinking how professional she looked, so prime and proper, well dressed and well mannered, always very business like. She took great pride in her appearance and in her work. She was a very beautiful woman.
She was introduced to me as Ofelia and quickly told me that I may call her Ofie which I did. A few months later after we were more comfortable with each other (or so I thought) I told her that her nickname reminded me of Opie from the Andy Griffith Show and jokingly asked if I could call her Opie? She didn’t find it at all amusing and promptly told me rather matter of factly that I could call her Ofie, Ofelia or Mrs. Gonzalez and nothing else then turned and walked away. Believe me I never called her Opie again!
I have so many fond memories of our years working together. She loved cats, not the soft and furry domestic cats but tigers and had small stuffed tigers on her desk. Through the years I added to her collection by giving her tiger Beany Babies on her birthdays. It also became a Christmas tradition to give Ofie a Tiger photo calendar each year. My wife and I would always be on the lookout for just the right one. One year I surprised her by downloading a Tiger screensaver to her computer. I’ll never forget how happy she was when she saw it. She had an awesome smile.
Ofie also had a great love of children and looked forward to the prospect of being a grandmother. When my first grandchild was born in 2003 Ofie would come into my office to look at the pictures I had of my number one granddaughter. She continued to do so through the years as I added more and more pics of my grandkids. Sometimes we would talk and she would tell me that when she became a grandma she would retire so she could spend time with her grandchild. She was so happy and excited when she at long last learned that she was going to be a grandma! And she did exactly what she said she would do she retired to be a loving grandma! I know she must have been a great one.
Ofie has now returned to her Heavenly Home, and rests comfortably in the Arms of the Lord. Please continue to pray for her family.
Farewell old Friend… Until we meet again…