CARBONDALE — Maria Eugenia Padilla of Carbondale, lost her battle with pneumonia on Tuesday, March 18, 2014.
At her bedside at University of Chicago Hospital were Todd Woodruff, the love of her life, and her sisters, Myriam Padilla, Aura (Padilla) Woodruff and brother-in-law Jeff Woodruff.
In death she is united with her parents, Humberto Padilla Alvarado and Susanna Santos Padilla.
Born on Nov. 15, in Chinandega, Nicaragua, Maria was the youngest of nine children. She is survived by siblings, Humberto, Enrique, Oscar, Myriam, Yolanda and Sylvia Padilla (all currently residing in Nicaragua), as well as Gloria Ortiz and Aura Woodruff (residing in the United States). She will be deeply missed by numerous nieces and nephews including Carla Boehne Carter, previously of Carbondale, now residing in Temecula, Calif.
Nicknamed “Nina” by her friends, Maria had a childhood influenced by French nuns who cared for her and her sisters at the Colegio Asuncion in Leon Nicaragua after the untimely death of her mother when Maria was scarcely 3 years of age. Maria was sustained by a life-long commitment to the church as well as an unbending sense of “right and wrong.” She was an active and enthusiastic member of Saint Francis Xavier Church in Carbondale.
During summer breaks from the Colegio, Maria, with her brothers and her sisters spent time at their father’s farm in the Chinandega countryside. No TV, but plenty of family, outdoor activities, and friendly neighbors made the time pass happily. And plenty of records from the United States and Nicaragua gave Maria a chance to practice and polish her dancing skills. She was a local sensation, invited to perform and teach the latest dances with girlfriends like Violeta Noguera and Velia Molieri.
She had an eye for fashion and style. And like her brother, Oscar, she was a great salesman. After high school she worked with Zavala Fashions of Nicaragua helping to buy, promote and sell virtually everything from a dresses to jukeboxes. But she dreamed of coming to America and at SIU in the late 1970s she did just that. Maria earned an Associates Degree in business practices at SIU Carbondale. She then returned to her sales career at Zavala and later SOVIPE where she excelled and is remembered to this day.
Revolution came to Nicaragua, and Maria returned to the U.S. on the last commercial flight leaving Nicaragua prior to the Revolution. She put her prior experience to good use when she worked at Zwicks Shoes, and later Ruthie’s (Women’s Wear) in Carbondale, followed by Sofa Show Case in Marion.
War and counter revolution continued to bedevil Nicaragua, and Maria played host and surrogate mom to nieces, Maria E. Padilla (“Maria 2”) and Maria Yolanda Somarriba as well as nephew, Raulito Somarriba. Her care and concern were evident from day one. She shared their youthful joys and excitement.
Later, with revolution and child care behind her, Maria and sister Aura, worked side by side at University Hall, and later at Woodruff Management (businesses catering to the SIU community). She loved students — and happily celebrated their accomplishments with remembrances to them and their parents.
She delighted in the Nicaraguan heritage, the music, the lifestyle. But she equally was proud to become a US citizen and expressed her admiration for this country throughout her life. We imagine her dancing to “Nicaragua, Nicaraguita” and “God Bless the USA.” She did both.
Visitation will be from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday, March 24, at Saint Francis Xavier Church in Carbondale. Mass will follow at 12:30 p.m. Monday at the church. Internment will be in Chinandega Nicaragua at a date to be determined.
Memorials may be made in Maria’s name to the Arthritis Foundation P.O. BOX 96280 WASHINGTON, DC 20077-7491.