BY FRANCISCO GUAJARDO | SPECIAL TO THE MONITOR

Yolanda Guerra and her husband George last saw each other in person on Nov. 25, 2020, the day before Thanksgiving. That day, she said, “Honey, I’ve lived a good life. Thank you for everything. I love you!”

Moments later, she was whisked away to McAllen Medical Center, where she died of COVID-19 complications on Dec. 4, at age 63. She was born in Edcouch on May 21, 1957.

George bore witness to Yolanda since 1971, when they were in the band together at Edcouch-Elsa High School: he a 15-year-old sophomore, she a 14-year-old freshman.

“She was playing the clarinet, when she caught my eye,” George said. “I played the trumpet. We didn’t hit it off in the beginning, but when she asked me to be her chamberlain at her quinceañera, the relationship was sealed.”

“She came from a very humble family,” George added. “Her mother Toñita and her siblings all learned how to work hard, be responsible, and to be there for each other. They learned to love the Lord. But materially, they didn’t have much.”

George recounts that as a little girl, Yolanda never owned a doll, and didn’t have a purse as an adolescent.

“But in case any family members or friends were ever curious,” George said. “Yolanda became a doll collector and had a closet full of purses.”

She even gave dolls for Christmas, especially to 7-year-old granddaughter Avery, who bore adoring witness to her grandmother, and who describes her as “silly old grandma.”

“She taught me how to do the hula hoop,” Avery said.

Funny that the exercise was a complete hip-action simulation — there was no hula hoop. Indeed, Yolanda was silly.

Yolanda’s son, George Jr., said his mother “brought life into any room. She had a glow about her, beautiful in every way.” He and his mother talked every day.

“My day would end with a phone call to her,” he said.

Eric, Yolanda’s younger son, said his mother exuded love, hope and faith.

“Mom always told me to pursue my dreams, to never let anyone tell you that you couldn’t do something,” said Eric, who saw his mother as a precious gift.

George and Yolanda shared the responsibility of growing Guerra’s Funeral Home into a respected business in the community. Yolanda was committed to the funeral home, but she always worked at least one other job.

“She was a bookkeeper and was good at it, always loyal and hardworking to her employer,” George said.

Through the years George and Yolanda built strong relationships with the community. A trained mortician, George handled the mortuary science, while Yolanda helped with the bookkeeping, payroll and public relations.

“Sometimes, she’d help me prepare ladies’ hair,” George said.

The Guerras took pride in being there for others — a hallmark of the family value system.

“Like her mother Toñita,” said George, Yolanda embodied a generous spirit.

There’s the story of a friend of the boys, a young man named Orlando Rodríguez, who goes by the nickname Nige.

“When he was in the 8th grade,” said George, Nige stayed the night after a school function.

According to Nige, “I was lost at that point in his life, but through Yolanda’s guidance, I found my way to the Lord, and my life was changed forever.”

“They took me in, as if I was their son, and she was the force behind that,” said Nige, who also bore close witness to Yolanda.

While George has been in the funeral business since 1976, he said it “didn’t quite prepare you for when you lose a family member. When it hits home, it’s very different. I can now see how families can be so overwhelmed. I gained an appreciation for how challenging it is.”

“Closure has been hard for all of us,” George said. “I had to dress Yolanda for final viewing. It was very hard, but I felt (like) such an honor to do that.”

“The rosaries have been very helpful,” George Jr. said. “Even if we do them virtually. It’s been great to see family be there throughout.”

George also tells the story of Max, the family Shih Tzu who took Yolanda’s death as hard as any human.

“Max knew,” said George. “He got depressed and had this sadness about him. So, I took him to see Yolanda’s body in the funeral home. I took him twice, in fact, because he needed closure.”

Apparently, the last exchanges with Yolanda eased Max’s grief.

“He is now back to his bouncy self,” George said. “But only because he had a chance to sniff her one last time. Max and Yolanda were able to communicate — in a deeply spiritual way.”

On this holiday season, we celebrate the gift of the love Yolanda Guerra bestowed upon so many. More than anything, “Yolanda believed in the Lord and in her family,” said George.

Que en paz descanse Yolanda Guerra. Rest in peace.


Francisco Guajardo, chief executive officer for the Museum of South Texas History at 200 N. Closner Blvd. in Edinburg, authored this story as part of an ongoing series entitled Bearing Witness. The museum’s effort aims to document some of the Rio Grande Valley lives lost to COVID-19. For more information about the museum, visit MOSTHistory.org.