Ana Maria Rieping died amid loved ones at her Madera, California, home at 10:59 p.m., Jan. 16, 2017, after a two-year fight with cancer.
The eldest of three children, she was born at Madera County Hospital on Oct. 1, 1966, to Mary Angelina Grahiola, and baptized Jan. 22, 1967, at St. Joachim Catholic Church. She first met her future husband, Bernard Rieping, when his mother taught summer school at Sierra Vista Elementary School and introduced a seemingly shy boy to her class. After she introduced him, a classmate exclaimed how cute he was, which spurred him to hide behind his mom.
She graduated from Madera High School in 1984 and spent two years as an engineering student at University of California, Berkeley. But didn’t meet “Bernie” again until a church canoe and camping retreat during her years at California State University, Fresno, for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. They became friends, dated, and married Jan. 18, 1997, the same day his parents had married.
She first worked as a supervisor for Madera County’s Migrant Head Start. As a teacher, she moved on to Ripperdan Elementary School in 1996 and Madison Elementary School in 1997. At Madison, she became a teacher on special assignment in 2004 and an academic coach in 2009. She became a districtwide academic coach for Madera Unified School District in 2013. She completed the Bridges Program for her administrative credential a few months ago.
She loved children, teaching, singing, music, the color purple, and her dogs and cats. She sang and played the flute in the St. Joachim Youth Choir for many years when it was led by her guitar-playing husband.
Ana had a strong determination in life and wanted wholeheartedly to live. But she repeatedly said she hoped God would use her cancer to bring someone closer to him, whether or not she was healed. She believed the cancer could not defeat her, even if it took her life, so long as she didn’t lose heart or her faith in God. The last words she told her husband were “I love you.”
She is survived by her husband of 20 years, Bernard; her sister Michele Elizabeth Irving; her children of the heart Michael James Valverde and Bernadette Marie Rodarte; her sons Jeremy, Alexander, Benjamin, Timothy, and Zachary; and two grandchildren, Kiara and Sebastian. She is preceded in death by her mother and her younger brother, Joseph Rodriguez, whose anniversary of death is Friday, Jan. 27.
The rosary will be prayed Friday, Jan. 27, at 5 p.m. in St. Joachim Church, 401 W. 5th St. A Mass of Christian Burial will be Saturday, Jan. 28, at 3 p.m. in the same church with a reception afterwards at Holy Spouses Hall, 320 N. I St. Internment will be for immediate family at a later date.
Below is a 2013 Christian music video in which Ana Rieping, her husband, and some of her children played key roles.