Maria De Jesus Castanon, age 94, passed away peacefully on July 21, 2017 at home surrounded by loving family. She was born on November 3, 1922 in Rockdale, Texas to Pablo Mancilla and Simona Castro.
In her youth, Maria worked in the cotton fields and was forced to prematurely end her education due to discrimination against minorities that limited access to schools. This slight against her would inspire activism in her community and fuel her efforts to see her sons and daughters achieve higher education in military service, technical certifications and at colleges and universities.
Maria herself sought a certification at Del Mar that enabled her to work as a certified nurse’s aide in nursing homes for several years. Always eager to contribute, she enjoyed working weekend booths at various flea markets which was also an outlet for her creative talents in crocheting and her love of making cascarones.
She will always be remembered for her boundless energy that enabled her to balance family, faith and community service.
Maria was a devout Catholic and often led the family in prayer at gatherings which always included her savory cooking. For several years, she was also a participant and leader with the Christian Cursillista movement.
Maria’s family was involved with the American GI Forum since the group’s early years in Corpus Christi. She continued their legacy with AGIF and worked with Dr. Hector P. Garcia to address problems of discrimination and inequities endured by Hispanic veterans. Her activism with the group was solidified after the loss of her son in Vietnam in September 1966 when she became an American Gold Star Mother.
Maria’s involvement spanned decades as a door to door Democratic block captain in her Molina neighborhood in the seventies to flying to Washington D.C in the nineties to speak out against English-only legislation. See Maria speak with the National Council of La Raza in a press conference opposing the US Senate’s legislation at www.c-span.org/video/?74913-1/english-official-language
Her engagement with the AGIF took her around the country and inspired a love for travel that she would enjoy into her nineties.
Preceded in death by her husband of 58 years, Eulalio and her sons infant Margarito and PFC Alfredo Castanon.
Maria was a loving mother to and is survived by her children Manual (Janie), Eulalio Jr. (Angelica), Roberto (Janie), Maria, Dorothea and Rosalinda; granddaughters, Pamela Burkhart, Paula, Roxanne, Erica (Greg) Haring, Nicole, Maria Christina (Julio Garcia) and Amanda; her great granddaughter, Amber Johnson. She will also be missed by numerous relatives and infinite friends.
Visitation will be held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, July 27, 2017 at Seaside Funeral Home Chapel. A Rosary will be recited at 7 p.m. the same evening. Funeral Mass will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, July 28, 2017 at Our Lady of Pillar Catholic Church. Interment to follow at Rose Hill Memorial Park.
Special thank you to the granddaughters and great-granddaughter serving as pallbearers, and honorary pallbearers Greg Haring, Julio Garcia and Rick Manzano. We thank Cruzita (Reyes) Torres for being a loving niece and sidekick to our mother throughout the years. Thank you to Noe Lopez and family for your support at our most difficult time.