May 30, 1931 - July 09, 2022
Obituary For Emilia Estrella
Mrs. Emilia Estrella, 91, of Raleigh, North Carolina, passed away peacefully at home on July 9, 2022, in the arms of her husband, Gregorio Estrella. The cause of death was an exacerbation of COPD, a condition she battled for three years. Emilia and Gregorio shared a complete and joyful life together for over 52 years.
Milly – as her close friends called her - was born in 1931 in Manila, Philippines as the daughter of Luciano Cruz, father, and Aurelia Licup, mother, both also from Manila, Philippines. When she was one year old, this young family moved to Pasadena, CA.
From an early age, Emilia thrived on helping others. As the oldest child growing up in the Great Depression and World War II, she helped raise her siblings while her parents worked multiple jobs. But she also felt a calling to serve God. Her inspiration to become a nun started at age 12, and she fulfilled this dream at 21 years old at the Novitiate in Valley Park, Missouri, in 1952. She became a member of the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic based in Maryknoll, NY, from 1952 to 1969.
Her Mission took her to South America to support the community in education, social services, and hospital services. But she found her true calling when she taught Spanish to first-grade children in Bolivia and Peru. Her average classroom attendance was 54 students each year. She graduated from the National Catholic Primary School Teachers for Higher Studies in Cochabamba, Bolivia. She also became certified as a Primary School Teacher in Spanish from the Ministry of Education and Fine Arts of La Paz, Bolivia.
In early 1969, Emilia’s life took another unexpected turn. After a premonition that she would not be in Maryknoll for her entire life, she sought support and guidance from her spiritual community. Emilia eventually wrote to Holy Father John Paul VI requesting to be released from her Vows. She received a Letter of Dispensation in 1969 and eventually moved to Michoacan, Mexico, to become a teacher. There she met her future husband, and after a romantic proposal at the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacan, Mexico, the second phase of Emilia’s life began as a wife and mother when they married in 1970.
Emilia is survived by her husband, Gregorio; her sons: Roberto Estrella of Cary, NC and Antonio Estrella of Singapore and their young families. She is also survived by her brother, Mike Cruz of Pasadena, CA. He is the only survivor of Emilia’s siblings, consisting of younger sister Mary, and younger brothers, Lou, Eddy, and Mike. Emilia also has many nephews, nieces, and friends who continue to reside in Pasadena, CA.
Emilia’s true passion in life was her Catholic faith, and she continued a devoted life throughout the rest of her years. Emilia also loved sports. In her youth, she loved to play tennis and basketball with family and friends. Emilia also loved supporting multiple American sports as a lifelong New York Yankees fan in baseball and a Dallas Cowboys fan in American football. She particularly enjoyed memorizing names and numbers in sports and putting the rest of her family to shame with her encyclopedic knowledge.
Emilia also travelled with her husband Greg to numerous countries in the US, Mexico, Europe, Africa, and Asia, always visiting churches and making new friends with her lovely and spiritual smile. Two of her most significant trips with Gregorio were to Our Lady of Lourdes in Lourdes, France, and Our Lady of Lourdes in Singapore in 2016.
In Raleigh, Emilia was delighted when her husband joined the founders' group of the Lourdes Bounty Community Garden. Together with Gregorio, they helped create a new gathering point for the community through her happy smile and, of course, home-cooked Mexican food.
Teacher, wife, mother, grandmother/ Abuela, friend and Sister in Christ to many. Always in service of others. May she Rest in Peace in the Glory of God. Emilia is in her eternal home.
A memorial service will be held at The Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 2718 Overbrook Drive, Raleigh, NC 27608 on Aug 4, 2022, at 10:00 am. Rob and his Father, Greg, will be present for visitation to welcoming guests at the lobby of the church before entering the church for Mass. A virtual gathering will also be hosted by Antonio at 9:00 am.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in memory of Emilia Estrella to The Lourdes Bounty Community Garden. Donations may be made online through the church website: Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church Donation Website ; Then click the OTHER option, insert gift amount and write in IMO E. Estrella to garden ministry. This link can also be found here: Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church Donation Website Checks may be mailed to Our Lady of Lourdes, Attention: Lourdes Bounty Community Garden, 2718 Overbrook Dr., Raleigh, NC 27608. The Estrella Family has a special affection for this OLL Community Garden since it was started in 2016 with the Mission Statement to bring together the communities of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, and Our Lady of Lourdes School.