Maria Tellez was an unselfish woman who wanted to make a positive contribution to the Hispanic community in Northwest Indiana, said her daughter, Lisa Guzman.
“She never graduated from high school, but with only an eighth grade education, she succeeded in everything she endeavored,” she said. “She was a remarkable woman of short stature, but a giant heart. Her vision to succeed never wavered.”
Maria Tellez, 91, of Valparaiso, died Oct. 1. She worked as a Headstart coordinator, 4-H Clubs of America crew leader and nutrition specialist for Purdue University Extension.
She was involved in numerous civic and community organizations and was a member of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church. She was the recipient of numerous awards for her activities.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Emeterio Tellez, in 1965. After he passed away, she raised their six children as a single mother, living on a fixed income.
Born in Mexico, Tellez relocated to the United States with her family when she was 2 years old. The family settled in Texas, and Tellez grew up on her father’s farm. The farm sparked her lifelong love of animals, gardening and the outdoors, her daughter said.
After getting married in 1948, the Tellez family moved to the Midwest in the 1950s and Emeterio Tellez took a job at the steel mill.
She was proud that she became a U.S. citizen in the 1960s, and was actively involved in Lake County politics. She served in numerous capacities, from going door to door for voter registration or serving as precinct committeewoman.
She was proud of the fact she had met presidential candidates John F. Kennedy and Walter Mondale and had her picture taken with Hubert Humphrey.
She was a member of the Sociedad Mutualista Mexico in Gary, where she had been president of the Ladies Auxiliary, secretary of the Ladies Auxiliary and member of the board of directors.
“She was very instrumental with their fundraising events and was well known for her cooking and managing the catering services,” Guzman said. “She was delightfully known for making the best tamales, carne con chile and enchiladas. She continued to manage the kitchen well into her mid-80s.”