The life of Carmen Maria Rodriguez is a story of a beloved mother who above all loved her God. Her family was her greatest joy and she instilled in them great values and moral integrity that will be her lasting legacy for generations to come. Through life’s heartache and turmoil, Carmen was loved and saved by God’s unending grace. She will be deeply missed in the hearts of those she leaves behind.
Known as the Roaring Twenties, it was a time of prosperity with great progress in a growing economy. When an earthquake disrupted and greatly damaged the coast of Puerto Rico, the government went into action and an era of economic development was put in place. Not only did it come to serve as a time of economic growth in Puerto Rico, but the territories expanded socially as well. Nestled in the Valley of Quebradillas along the pristine waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Carmen Maria was born on August 18, 1920, the daughter of Juan and Barbara (Rivera) Deida of Camuy, Puerto Rico.
Young Carmen’s life had a tragic beginning when her mother sadly died giving birth to Carmen. Although actually born on August 18, 1920, Carmen grew up believing her birth day was May 18. She never discovered the truth until much later in life, but even so, she continued to always recognize the day of her birth as May 18. The loss of Carmen’s mother left her father with many children to raise alone. Knowing it was a challenge he could not possibly handle, he dispersed Carmen and her siblings among various members of the family. Many were separated at this time and some were raised never to see one another again.
Life was undoubtedly hard on Carmen from her earliest days. At the age of eight years old she was signed on to become a domestic helper for a family. The arrangement left Carmen in dire need as she was sadly mistreated. Waiting until the opportunity arose, Carmen ran from the home in the dark of the night only to find herself in several of these situations once again. Destitute and alone, one of these domestic situations proved to be a turning point in Carmen’s life when a woman she worked for took her under her wing. She taught Carmen how to pray the Rosary and also took her to church. Through this positive experience Carmen developed a love for God. Relying on her faith, she found strength in the power of His unconditional love and used this foundation of faith as a cornerstone in raising her own family.
As a young teen Carmen met an older man named Juan Isabelino Martinez “Pepe” who was sixteen years older than Carmen. Soon married and expecting her first child, Jose was sadly stillborn. Before long Carmen gave birth to her daughter Minerva who was followed by Mary. She instilled in her children a love for God and never ceased praying in their presence. Every evening she tucked them safely into bed and lovingly sang, “La Bendicion” . . . give me your blessing. A strict parent, Carmen was the disciplinarian in their home all while demonstrating tough love to her children.
In search of a more promising future, Pepe left Puerto Rico and settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1951 Carmen followed with her daughters in tow to a world of many changes. Her family grew to include the births of her sons, Joseph, Edgar, and Louis. Before long her daughter Rebecca came along. Although her marriage to Pepe ended in divorce, Carmen was blessed to have her children. Through these years Carmen continued to work hard and raise her kids to the best of her ability. In time a mutual friend introduced Carmen to a gentleman named Lao Rodriguez. A romance developed and in 1960 they were married. Lao loved and adored Carmen and took her six children on as his very own. They were soon blessed with three additional children with the births of their daughter, Soraida, son, Martin, and daughter, Queen.
Ever the strict disciplinarian, Carmen taught her children to work hard and to do a good job. Although they often times learned the hard way, Carmen always made them do their work over if it wasn’t done correctly. She demonstrated tough love, but she was well respected and loved by each of them. In fact, her children learned how to clean so well that they went on to develop cleaning businesses of their own! Carmen was a good and loving mother. Along with making a wonderful home for her family, Carmen was a great cook, too. She often blended ingredients to create delicious meals and dishes that continued to be requested by family throughout the years. Many of her recipes have been passed down and are now favorites of her grandchildren.
Known for her remedies for minor illnesses, Carmen lovingly pampered her children when they were sick and prayed endlessly for them. One of her remedies included “guarapo”, a soothing tea that was sure to make them better. Carmen’s faith was ever present in her home as she set a good example for her children. Having instilled in her children a love for God, it was Carmen’s children that led her to a more fulfilling relationship with her Lord. She soon realized her need to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit. It was certainly a day of reckoning for Carmen when she was baptized in Jesus’ name and filled with the Holy Ghost.
In 1998 it became a sad and lonely time for Carmen when her beloved Lao died. Never alone since she was a young girl, Carmen was welcomed into the home of her daughter, Minerva where she was surrounded by her loving and adoring family. Her family was so important and meant everything to her. Carmen found joy in the little things. She enjoyed watching professional wrestling and continued to love cooking. She was talented when it came to embroidering, and she liked washing dishes. Although Carmen never asked for much, she treasured her doll collection. Her cherished collection began when her daughter gave her “the doll she never had” which truly touched the very core of Carmen’s heart. In the coming years Carmen always received a doll as a heartfelt gift.
In 2008 Carmen developed physical problems that slowed her down. She began to lose interest in some of the things she had previously enjoyed, but she never lost her will and love for prayer. When her health deemed it necessary for hospice care, Carmen was reluctant. Always the caretaker, she fought to enter into restful death. With the love and assurance from her family, they promised to love and care for one another, especially looking out for Martin and Joe. Carmen was born into eternal life early Sunday morning, September 26, 2010. At the age of 90, Carmen Maria Rodriguez has found her forever home in the loving arms of her Lord Jesus.
The beloved mother of ten children, Carmen was a devoted grandmother of 28, great-grandmother of 32, great-great grandmother of 3, sister, and dear friend to many. Friends may visit with her family on Wednesday, September 29 at the Suminski Family Funeral Home, Niemann/Suminski, 2486 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue from 4-7 PM and again on Thursday, September 30 at St. Francis Catholic Church, Fourth and Brown Street from 9:00 AM until the funeral Mass at 10:00 AM. Interment Forest Home Cemetery. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to leave a favorite memory of Carmen or to sign her online guest book.
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