Theresa Magdaleno Villa obituary photo
 
In Memory of

Theresa Magdaleno Villa

October 28, 1933 - May 4, 2017

Obituary


Who Was Theresa Magdaleno Villa?

Theresa "Teddy" Magdaleno Villa

October 28, 1933 - May 4, 2017


Theresa Magdaleno Villa came from a poor working class family that had immigrated to Arizona in the 1920s. The eighth child of a family of ten children, she was born in the copper-mining town of Miami, where she and her siblings played in the hills along Grover Canyon. As one of the younger children, she enjoyed teasing her older brothers, especially José, who liked to play the harmonica. One day José left his harmonica...

Who Was Theresa Magdaleno Villa?

Theresa "Teddy" Magdaleno Villa

October 28, 1933 - May 4, 2017


Theresa Magdaleno Villa came from a poor working class family that had immigrated to Arizona in the 1920s. The eighth child of a family of ten children, she was born in the copper-mining town of Miami, where she and her siblings played in the hills along Grover Canyon. As one of the younger children, she enjoyed teasing her older brothers, especially José, who liked to play the harmonica. One day José left his harmonica on the window sill, and Theresa and her sister Lucy danced around and played with it, and accidentally dropped it. They quietly returned the pieces of the broken instrument to its place, and did not confess that they had broken it.

When she was nine years old, her father was killed in a mining accident, and after a couple of years her widowed mother moved the family to Phoenix. Her mother, Maria Chavez Magdaleno, believed in the value of a Catholic education and sacrificed so that her younger daughters could attend St. Mary's High School, where Theresa made life-long friendships with Annadean, Arsenia, Irma, Mary Helen, Claudette and Bertha.

She met the love of her life, Benjamin Villa, during their sophomore year of high school. Their first date was to the Junior Prom with their friends Claudette and Jim Walsh. Through dates, picnics and dances, they realized they belonged together.

Before they got married, they sat together and mapped out their lives, the goals and dreams they wanted to realize, using the values they had learned in religion classes from the priests and nuns at St. Mary's. Because their mothers were widows, they knew they had to rely on themselves to accomplish their goals.

Thanks to her training at St. Mary's High School, Theresa was able to get a secretarial job in the city of Phoenix traffic engineering department immediately after graduation, and she took more business skills classes to improve her typing and shorthand. After they were married, Ben worked at the Phoenix Pie Shop while attending Arizona State University, and Theresa worked full-time to put him through college and to support their growing family. After their second child was born and Ben had finished his Bachelor's degree, she started working as a secretary at Sperry Rand, which had a program to pay for some college classes. She took evening classes and then decided to become a full-time student. It took her seven years to earn her Bachelor's degree, while raising two girls and having another girl and boy along the way. She had incredible energy, and she was driven to become the first college graduate in her family. She graduated from Arizona State University in 1969.

Theresa and Ben enjoyed their life in Phoenix. The family spent time together at home in the back yard most summer evenings. When Cathy and Dimi were little, they would go fishing in the White Mountains in the Payson area. When the girls were older, Ben and Theresa would chaperone their Girl Scout camping trips, taking their younger children, Evangline and Steven, as well. They also enjoyed going to dances at the Vesta Club in Phoenix. They were always one of the first couples on the dance floor and the last to go home.

In 1969, Ben was offered a position with the Santa Monica - Malibu Unified School District, so they moved their family of four children to California. After Theresa earned her California teaching credential, she taught typing and other office skills at Central City Occupational Center in the Adult Education program. While working full-time, she continued taking evening and summer school classes. She earned her Master's degree in Counseling and Administration from Cal Lutheran University in 1981.

She worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District from 1970 though 2001. After teaching at Central City Occupational Center (which became Abram Friedman Occupational Center), she was Assistant Principal at Huntington Park/Bell Community Adult School and at Metropolitan Skills Center. She was principal at Roosevelt Adult School and East Los Angeles Occupational Center.

She made lasting impressions on her students, even the ones who considered themselves "gang-bangers." While she was principal at Roosevelt Adult School, one of the assistant principals had caught rival gang members writing graffiti in the school restroom. When asked what he should do with them, Theresa said that they had to clean up the graffiti. "At the same time?" the AP asked. "Yes, and you're going to supervise them," she said. She had no fear of supposed bad guys and knew how to take command of a situation. She also watched out for the needs of her co-workers and often found jobs in the school district for their family members.

While Ben and Theresa were working full-time and taking classes for many years in California, the family found time to enjoy several camping trips, including one to the beach outside of Ensenada, Mexico, and several trips to Pismo Beach during clamming season. After fishing out big buckets of clams, and they would make a delicious pot of homemade clam chowder. They also made time to pursue other hobbies together, such as photography, golf and jogging.

During the late 1970s, Theresa and Ben got involved with the Association of Mexican-American Educators (AMAE). She was his moral and secretarial support when he was regional vice president, and helped him organize new chapters for many school districts in southern California. She was his right hand when he was elected state president of AMAE in 1976.

After retiring in 2001, Theresa and Ben continued their love of travel. While it was still safe, they took a bus and train trip through Mexico, exploring the Copper Canyon (Barrancas del Cobre) on their own, by train and by bus. Their travels included Sweden, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, China, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Turkey, the Azores and a pilgrimage to Israel. They visited the Marian sites in Mexico City, Fatima, Lourdes, Ireland as well as Epshesus. In every place they went, they made connections with people despite the barriers of language or culture. They saw and loved the humanity in everyone.

Their most frequent travels were to northern California to visit their two grandchildren on their birthdays, communions, confirmations, and yearly performances. In 2008, "Grandma Teddy" and "Grandpa Benny" treated their grandkids to a trip to Paris and Rome, and let the kids' parents tag along for this unforgettable family experience. The grandkids and their parents spent every Christmas making tamales and attending midnight Mass with their grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Theresa is pre-deceased by her beloved husband of over 60 years, Benjamin "Benny" Salas Villa. She is survived by her four children: Catherine Rose Villa (William Simmons Faught III), Demitria Rosemarie Villa, Theresa Evangeline Villa (Rocco Thomas Capece, Jr.), and Benjamin Steven Villa (Sherri Villa). She is also survived by her two cherished grandchildren: William Simmons Faught IV and Theresa Villa Faught.

Arrangements under the direction of Bastian & Perrott, Oswald Mortuary, Northridge, California.