Carmen M. Diéguez, of Harris, NY and St. Joseph, MI passed away peacefully on October 10, 2020. Her daughter, Nieves “Nina” Diéguez Molter was at her side.
Carmen was born in New York City in 1937 to Pedro and Amparo Ríos Neira. Her mother died when Carmen was just an infant leaving her an only child. From grade school on, she studied the piano, violin, voice and Flamenco dance. Her piano rendition of “La Malagueña” by Cuban Classical Composer Ernesto Lecuona was positively stirring.
Carmen graduated from the High School of Music and Art in Harlem, and at the age of 18, performed on the piano at Carnegie Recital Hall. After high school, she worked various jobs and attended Columbia University in the evenings. Her first ‘real job’ was as a secretary and Spanish/English interpreter at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where she worked for eight years.
In December 1960, Carmen married Generoso “Henry” Diéguez and took a hiatus from college to work and raise a family. They had two children, Nieves and Pedro in 1963 and 1966, respectively. When her children were school aged, Carmen decided to volunteer in the classroom. The encouragement she received from the teachers and administrators sparked her desire to finish college and become a teacher. She had found her calling. She returned to college and graduated Cum Laude with a Master’s Degree in Spanish and English as a Second Language from the State University of New York at New Paltz.
While Carmen’s teaching career spanned over 30 years, her commitment to serving Hispanics, minorities, and those less fortunate was equally important to her. A devoted Roman Catholic, she worked tirelessly giving those in need her attention and care with a pinch of her comedic humor. She delighted in making people smile. As wife, mother, teacher, and mentor, she believed that compassion and helping others was the best gift anyone could give. Making others laugh while doing so was the icing on the cake.
Carmen lived by example. In New York, she served on the boards of the Sullivan County Cares Coalition, the Liberty Youth Center, and the Liberty Community Development Corporation, all charitable organizations about which she was passionate. In 2006 she received honors from the Sullivan County Chapter of the NAACP. She was admired for her contributions by former students, peers, educators, and members of the community. When she moved to Michigan and started to shows signs of dementia, she continued to volunteer in a limited capacity at Brookview School and The Readiness Center, both in Benton Harbor. Giving of herself even within the confines of her illness was her nature.
A lifelong passion, Carmen continued to play the piano until the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s got the better of her. She liked to swim and enjoyed gardening. She loved a party, crashed more than a few weddings, and was an engaging hostess--it was hard to get her to sit down. As her mind faltered in the last decade of her life, Carmen remained physically active. She was often seen walking--first along the beach, then downtown, and finally, in the halls at The Whitcomb.
Carmen was an affectionate and nurturing wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, and friend-- encouraging, patient, and almost always cheerful. She embodied positivity in everything she did, and delivered it with her beaming smile. She was romantic and idealistic. She appreciated each and every Michigan sunset and loved her grandchildren beyond measure. Her grandchildren remember her making time to play hide-and-seek, pick wildflowers, spy birds, and pretend-wrestle. Her grandson Quinn said, “she was the most real person I’ve ever known”. There was no pretense in her. She was curious, unassuming and unaffected.
She was pre-deceased by Generoso, her husband of 40 years, her beloved son Pedro Manuel, her dearest friend Rose Doery, and her doting companion, Alvin Braudo. She is survived by her daughter and son-in-law, Nieves Diéguez and Greg A. Molter, three grandchildren, Quinn A. Molter-Diéguez, Isabel R. Molter, and Harlie K. Diasparra, her favorite ‘daughter’ goddaughter, Elena Machado Dalleo, friends and colleagues in New York, and treasured family in Spain. Her indelible smile and generosity of spirit will be terribly missed.
A private visitation was held at Starks Family Funeral Home in St. joseph, MI and she was cremated on October 14, 2020. In her memory, charitable donations can be made to The Readiness Center, 347 Catalpa Ave., Benton Harbor, MI 49022, 269-926-4084 www.readinesscenterinc.org or Caring Circle of Lakeland, 4025 Health Park Lane St. Joseph, MI 49085, 269-429-7100 www.spectrumhealthlakeland.org. Those wishing to leave an online condolence may do so at www.starks-menchinger.com