MATHIS – Rosalinda Peña was a pillar in the community. She was a beloved individual who died on July 18. Members of the community have come together to remember her life and her impact on their lives.
“You know, she had a contagious smile that just like always, you know, was able to be transferred over to people, always made people feel very special, had a sincere love for everyone,” said Christina Alvarado, Ms. Peña’s only child.
Peña was a single mother who raised Alvarado all on her own.
“She just always, you know, was full of energy, always smiling,” Alvarado said.
One her favorite memories of her mother was acting as her personal accountant and business manager. Peña had an independent business she ran when Alvarado was younger.
“I did everything, all of her paperwork, all of her bookwork and, you know, everything like that I helped her with. Always got rewarded,” Alvarado said.
Alvarado’s childhood was filled many fun vacations, traveling to Hawaii, Las Vegas and to Disney World.
“We had a lot of fun family vacations as a child and then once I grew up she just always went with my husband and me and my children. She probably traveled everywhere with us,” Alvarado said.
Along with raising Alvarado, Peña was an active member in the Mathis community.
Mathis Intermediate School Assistant Principal and Mayor Pro Term, David Garcia was very close to Peña, calling her like a mother to him. He had known her his entire life.
Garcia also worked with Peña for the past 25 years.
“She was just, I mean, hard core, number one part fan, you know, like just very, very, very active,” Garcia said.
“Tirelessly, she was working. You know, she had health issues and she just continued to work for the kids all the time. She was just continually doing something.”
For nearly 50 years, Peña was dedicated to working with the youth at the Sacred Heart Church.
One of Garcia’s memorable moments with Peña was when she led a pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Toronto, Canada, to see and hear a message from now St. Pope John Paul II.
“That was a lot of walking over there and she gave her complete self to everybody and service and leadership and trying to get everybody there and make sure everybody was safe,” Garcia said.
“You know, everyone was so tired. And she just kept going and going and going, and making sure everyone was safe.”
“That really was inspiring. That’s probably the most memorable and favorite memory.”
Along with being a youth leader in the church, Peña was a member and president of the athletic booster club. Garcia would describe her as a die-hard Pirate fan.
“(She was) Cheering every Friday night at the football game. If we were losing, everyone would be sitting down and she would be standing up and cheering and never giving up,” Garcia said.
Peña was instrumental to the projects and sales completed by the athletic booster club.
“Before football season she was selling spirit shirts and ordering spirit shirts and making sure the concession stand was ready,” said Garcia. “She was up in the stands selling raffle tickets and selling programs, always doing something for the kids, always.”
For her hard work and dedication, the athletic department named an award in her honor for outstanding athletes, the Rosa Peña award.
In 2013, Peña ran and was elected for the city council and was re-elected twice after that.
Mathis City Secretary and Treasurer Mary Gonzales said that Peña came into city council during a difficult time.
Back then, the city was re-establishing the administrative faculty and was behind on city audits. Despite the challenges, Peña continued to work for the community and push for new projects.
“She really focused on bringing more of the focus to downtown and revitalizing activity in our downtown district,” Gonzales said.
Peña made a huge push for the Downtown Revitalization Project that occurred in 2018.
“She was very excited about pushing to shop local for the small shops that we have downtown,” Gonzales said.
At Peña’s funeral service, the church was at maximum capacity.
“It was standing room only at our Catholic church; like there was literally people standing up against the wall, in the back and in the cry room, like everywhere it was full and it was crazy,” Alvarado said.
Peña’s death has been a tremendous loss for the community. But for everyone, no one will ever forget her contagious smile and for the contributions she made to the city of Mathis.