Teresa “Terri” Rieping died in the presence of her beloved husband at their Madera, California, farm home around 7:25 p.m., Feb. 23, 2016, after battling Alzheimer’s disease for more than six years.
Fourth oldest of 11 children, she was born in Los Angeles on March 26, 1935, to Higinio and Carmen Lozano, and baptized May 9 in San Fernando. In Fresno, she attended St. Alphonsus Elementary School. At her confirmation, she chose Mary Magdalen as her patron saint May 9, 1947. She graduated from San Joaquin Memorial High School in 1953.
She worked as a histology technician for pathologist Dr. Parisi and as a legal receptionist for attorney Gilbert Lopez. She performed in a Mexican folkloric dancing troupe. She sewed her own ornate dance attire and wedding dress.
She first met German immigrant Josef “Joe” Rieping at a Catholic young adult gathering across from St. John’s Cathedral in Fresno around November 1962. He recalled her from a charity she’d danced at in Sanger, though she was skeptical when he said, “Didn’t I see you? We met before?” But Joe persevered, drawn by her reserve and strong Christian values. They dated and would marry Jan. 18, 1964.
They raised their family in the San Joaquin Valley. She worked as a bilingual teacher’s aide at Sierra Vista Elementary School, but may be best known for decades helping with the children’s bilingual faith instruction at St. Joachim Catholic Church. She led as its director of religious education for 20 years, impacting the spiritual formation of thousands.
She often visited the Juvenile Detention Facility in Madera after work as a volunteer to minister to young people. She served as a spiritual director for members of her church and embraced the international organization Focolare, which promotes ideals of unity and universal brotherhood as well as regular meditation on the Christian gospels. She repeatedly welcomed the homeless into her home, viewing them as Jesus coming to visit.
Under Pope John Paul II, the Vatican awarded her the Benemerenti Medal for long and exceptional service to the church on May 22, 1996.
She loved oil painting, portrait drawing, playing guitar, reading, praying, teaching, dancing, flowers, the color blue, and singing. She sang as a soprano in several choirs, most recently in the St. Joachim Senior Choir.
She would advise her children and grandchildren to “offer it up” to God when distressed, and to “remember Jesus forsaken” during trials. Her greatest hope for her loved ones was God’s grace.
She is survived by her husband of 52 years, Joseph Rieping, her son Anthony and his wife Noel, her son Bernard “Bernie” and his wife Ana, her son Eugene “Gino” and his wife Angelica, her daughter Maria-Helena Uribe with husband Hector, her son John, 16 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren — all of Madera.
The rosary will be prayed Monday, March 7, at 10 a.m. in St. Joachim Church, 401 W. 5th St. A Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 11 a.m. with a reception afterwards at Holy Spouses Hall, 320 N. I St. Internment will be for immediate family only.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the nonprofit soup kitchen The Holy Family Table at 401 W. 5th St., Madera, CA 93637.
My mom Theresa, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, has been unable to swallow food or liquid properly and so has been unable to eat. She last ate and drank Tuesday and has been in Madera Community Hospital since Wednesday. Her longtime physician, Dr. Zafar Sheikh, is unsure she'll make it through the weekend.
She received the sacrament of the anointing of the sick by Rev. Gustavo Lopez, OSJ, around 3 p.m. today (Friday) and should be returning home tomorrow (Saturday) with in-home comfort (hospice) care by St. Agnes Hospital. (Pictured beside her is her husband Joseph, my dad.)
Your prayers and stories are welcome, especially as I know so little of my mother's life before my birth and I will have to write of it for her obituary when the time comes. It is hard to lose a mother, even to Heaven, but it has always been her greatest heart's desire. She may soon be with her eternal Valentine.
Thank you and may God bless you and your loved ones always.
Theresa Rieping died in the Lord around 7:25 p.m. Feb. 23, 2016