María de los Ángeles Gutiérrez Benítez went to her eternal home on August 14th, 2021 at the age of 88. She is survived by her five children and their spouses; Aurelio (Kiki) and Berta Fernandez, Ted (Teddy) and Rosa Fernandez, Alexander (Chino) and Mindy Fernandez, Maria (Mana) and Jim (Marty) Merritt, Laura and Tom Ross. Twelve grandchildren, Tony and Conchi Fernandez, Katie and Dave Sun, Christina Fernandez, TJ Fernandez, Alisha and Carlos Miranda, Ted Fernandez, Joey Fernandez, Melissa and Christopher Schaefer, Madeline and Brandon Teegen, Matthew and Kara Ross, Jacquelyn Ross and Marc Ross. Nine great grandchildren: Sebastian and Mia Fernandez, Audrey and Danny Sun, Theo and Lola Miranda, Sienna Teegen, Merritt Schaefer and Sophia Ross.
Maria was born on September 23rd, 1932 in Holguin, Cuba. She was the daughter of Teodoredo and Felisa Torralbas Gutiérrez, sister to Teodoredo (Nene) Gutierrez (deceased), Felisa Diez ((deceased), Enrique Gutiérrez.
As the baby of the family, she had a charmed childhood playing the piano, singing, playing basketball and attending Catholic schools where her deep faith was formed. In High school, she attended the Dominican Sisters boarding school in Havana where she made lifelong friends and attended yearly reunions until recently. She attended the University of Havana where she studied pharmacy. In 1951, at the age of 21 she married Aurelio Fernadez. They went on to have their five children within a seven year period.
Maria would tell beautiful stories of her life in Cuba, surrounded by family and friends, enjoying a life of faith, family, and celebrations–including canasta at the Tennis Club, adult costume parties, themed birthday parties for the children, baptisms, music, and dancing.
When Castro’s Revolution changed her storied life, she was determined to leave Cuba so that her family could thrive in freedom, especially religious freedom. Her heart was broken the day the Cuban government closed its churches and sent the nuns and priests away. In 1965, she and the entire family were able to fly to Mexico as they awaited their residency cards to enter the US.
After the family’s exile from Cuba, Maria worked in various capacities to help make ends meet: a towel factory, JCPenney, Institute of Marine Science and as an adult teacher at the Lindsey Institute. In between, she cooked for her brood of five, attended soccer games and basketball games, ballet recitals and always attended church on Sunday.
Maria was most defined by her faith and contagious laughter. It was what sustained her in the most difficult times. It was her life’s purpose to spread her love of God, the church, and the Blessed Mother and to bring joy along the way.
She was blessed to travel the world, mostly to Catholic pilgrimages including, Lourdes, Fatima, Medjugorje and trips to the Holy Land. Her daughter would quote the children’s book, Where is Waldo? referring to the numerous places she had been.
In her later years, she most enjoyed seeing her grandchildren grow and thrive. Fourth of July family reunions in Captiva were the highlight of her year, which included Macarena dances, guitar sing-alongs, and grandkids talent shows. These were the moments that brought her the most joy. Each grandchild has their very own Abuela Maria story.
Maria would say our purpose in life was simply to love the Lord, know the Lord, and serve the Lord. She was a true disciple, known for leaving prayer cards behind everywhere she went.
In the end, she leaves behind a beautiful legacy of love, faith, and family.
In Lieu of Flowers please make donations to:
Love Crucified Community
C/O Fr. Jordi Rivero
25 Riverbrooke Ct.
Covington, Ga. 30016
Date: Tuesday, August 17, 2021
Time: 10:00 am - 11:00 am
St. Kieran Catholic Church
3605 South Miami Ave
Date: Tuesday, August 17, 2021
Time: 12:30 pm
Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Cemetery
Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery
11411 N.W. 25th Street
Doral, Florida 33172