Mamá, you taught us to believe that nothing is impossible.
DR. MARIA OLGA ALEU FONTELA was born in 1924 in Santiago de Cuba as the first daughter of Angel and Aurora Fontela. In reflecting on her 83 years of life, here are some qualities which her daughters have chosen to remember her by, qualities that define the woman, wife and mother that Olga was:
She was determined: As a young woman who grew up in Cuba, Maria Olga excelled in school. When told by her father that it was not culturally encouraged for women to get higher education, she determined to blaze her way through college and graduate school and didn’t stop until she’d earned a Ph.D. in Education. Having earned class valedictorian and been elected as class president, she was invited to La Habana to meet with Cuba’s president, Ramón Grau San Martin. The president personally congratulated her on her academic achievement and granted her a professorship at the prestigious University of Santiago. She taught there from 1948 until her family left Cuba in 1963 in search of Freedom.
She was assertive: Olga, as she was commonly known, was assertive. After dating Alberto Aleu for several years she decided to end the relationship on Valentine’s Day. Alberto, sensing this, came courting her that night dressed in mourning, wearing a black suit, his fedora and a white flower on his lapel. When she asked Alberto about his attire, he told her that he was in mourning for the impending break-up. Olga took this situation as a dare and they were married nine months later on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1949.
She was loving: Olga’s first daughter, Olguita, was born in 1951, followed by daughters Maricel, Alina, Aurora, Elena and Albis. A perfect “media dozena,” or half-dozen. She was very proud of her “pollitos,” her “little chicks” whom she dedicated her life to from then on. While working full time and raising her daughters she was also a loving wife, daughter, and sister to siblings Angelita, Albis and Angel. With her mother and sisters living in an adjacent home in Cuba, the warm tropical nights often found Olga sitting in the rocking chairs of her mother’s balcony, enjoying mangos, listening to music and conversing into the night.
She was courageous. Little did Olga and Alberto know how high they would have to climb to give their daughters a brighter future. Soon after Castro came to power and turned their beloved Cuba into a totalitarian communist state, Olga and Alberto decided to leave their homeland, and move to a land where their six daughters could have a future and a hope. Once she informed the authorities they were leaving the country, both Olga and Alberto lost their jobs and were treated as enemies of the State, gusanos, worms, people to be repudiated and persecuted by the communist regime. The years from 1959 to 1963 were challenging, uncertain and dangerous in many ways. Yet Olga was fearless and trusted God.
She was dedicated. Three years after their declaration to leave the island, the family was granted permission to go. Olga found herself starting over in a foreign land. Cold weather, an unknown future, and a language barrier might have paralyzed lesser souls, but Olga met the challenge and guided the family from insecurity to home ownership by working 1-½ jobs. In 1969 Olga and Alberto became home owners and moved the family from their initial two bedroom into a four bedroom home.
She was a hard worker: For 23 years she worked as a Spanish Teacher in New Jersey at the Edison School District in both the High School and Junior High. In the first half of this time she saw the wedding of four of her daughters. During the last half of these years, she dedicated her time, love and attention to caring for her husband until he passed away in 1985 and to her daughter Aurora until she too went to heaven in 1999.
She embraced life: After Maria Olga retired in 1996 she moved to Colorado to live with her oldest daughter, Olgy, and her family. Olga relished the time to visit her daughters and the opportunities to travel. She found great joy in listening to the Holy Scriptures and was a relentless intercessor for her family and friends. Her last eight months were spent in New Jersey spending time with daughters Maricel, Alina and Albis.
Olga was selfless and generous: In her last few years, she continued to be an integral part of her daughters’ lives, always seeing who needed her the most and honing in with whatever means of financial and emotional support would bless that person. She also was a blessing to her many friends who called upon her for advice and counsel.
On Wednesday, April 5th, at 12 noon, our beloved Mama went to be with our Lord. She suffered a stroke on March 21st and was admitted to Morristown Memorial Hospital. While at the hospital she suffered a cardio pulmonary arrest on March 29th, lost brain function, went into a comma and was put on life support as her vital organs started failing. Her daughters, Maricel, Alina, and Albis stayed by her side and Mamá held on until daughter Elena arrived from Egypt and daughter Olgy from Colorado. Guided by a team of doctors, her daughters made the decision to terminate life support. God answered prayers and Mama's last moments on earth were peaceful and, in many ways, joy filled. We invite you to rejoice and celebrate her life with us for she'll live in our hearts forever.
Funeral Services were held on April 9, 2008 in South Plainfield, New Jersey, the city where the Aleu family settled in when they came to the United States in 1965. Services were attended by her five daughters and their husbands, Albis & James Stainner, Elena Poulin, Alina & Bob Reininger, Maricel Aleu, Olgy & Jay Gary. Her grandchildren: David Gary and Christine Gary. Her sister and brother in law: Angela and Cesar Rodriguez. Also in attendance were family members of Olga's sons in law: Art & Rosalie Stainner; Frances Poulin, Mark Poulin, Gabby & Don Parseghian, Mimi Pascale; Bill & Doris Reininger, Suzanne Malesic, Larry & Carol Gary, John Laurence Gary as well as Bea Hunt and dear friends of the family. Olga's son in law, Tim Poulin, and grandchildren Rachel, Matthew and Christine Poulin were out of the country.
The family kindly requests that in lieu of flowers memorial contributions be made in Olga's name to her home church in Colorado: Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani, 41 North Iowa Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO 80909 or to a charity of choice.
Dr. MARIA OLGA ALEU FONTELA, 1924 to 2008, God-fearing, determined, assertive, loving, courageous, dedicated, a hard worker, selfless and fully alive.
Rest now Mamá, you have fought the good fight. Your devotion will be remembered forever and treasured by your siblings, your daughters, your sons-in-law, your grandchildren, and your friends, all who love and adore you!
We would love to hear from visitors, friends and family who visit this page. You can send your comments to us and, unless you note otherwise when you send them, we would love to post them as part of this online tribute to our beloved Mamá. Click this link to our online form to send your comments to us.
I am a friend of Elena's in Egypt and know what a blow the news of her mother's stroke was to her. I have had the pleasure of listening to Elena talk about her mother in such a way that her eyes literally light up with love and respect. I have admiration for this lady for her courage and ability to raise all the daughters in such a challenging manner. After visiting your memorial page I can see what a beautiful woman your mom was and how she passed those genes on to all her girls.
I know Elena well enough to know the beauty on the outside is only a small portion of the beauty you all have on the inside. I am comforted to know your mother knew and loved the lord and happy that she will now spend eternity with her father. She is gone in the physical sense but is with you all and watching you all this very minute. It is a terrible loss but her legacy with her daughters that she left behind will continue as I am sure you all have her spirit. Thanks for sharing your beautiful mother with all of us.
With deepest symphathy,
Olgy, so sorry to hear about your mother. I lost my parents some time ago now, but I think of them often and their lessons continue to guide me through both the good and bad times. I'm sure--especially after reading this tribute--that your mother will continue to touch many lives as her children and grandchildren continue to pass her love along the chain.
All the best,
Gary Raham, Author/Illustrator
A las Hermanas Aleu (To all the Aleu sisters)
I had the pleasure and honor to count your Mother, as well as your Father as friends of our family for many years. She was a very good friend of my own dear mother (Gloria "Cuca" Mella de Lopez) who passed away seven years ago.....friends since their youth in Santiago de Cuba.
I still relish photographs of my parents, dressed in their "finery" together with your parents at many parties and social functions in Cuba.....after the communist take over of our beloved island, the Cuban diaspora left many families and friends dispersed throughout the continent...we ended up in California, while your family ended up in New Jersey.
Only years later did my family migrate to New Jersey and by chance my Mother and your Mother met again and I had the joy of becoming friends with Maricel-while our mothers continued their friendship as if 40 years had not passed by!
Needless to say, our mothers could not have remained friends for so long if they were not so much alike. Both were courageous, strong women, deeply religious, who loved their families unconditionally and faced adversity with valor and an unflinching positive attitude.
I will miss Olga and the good times we shared (like this past New Years Eve, spent at a concert with a lovely dinner afterwards!), her wisdom and the way she had of being honest and forthright. I know they are both in heaven, resting in peace, conforted by the love of our Father, Jesus Christ.
Dr. Gloria Rodriguez
Wow, Olgy, when I read this tribute page, I felt the descriptions, and it brought tears to my eyes. How wonderful for all of you to have such a beautiful woman to give you life and encouragement. And how fortunate that our human family, especially the feminine, had such a phenomenal expression to help evolve us. I'm sorry for your loss, but know you received so much. Blessings to you as you mourn and celebrate.
Love, Light, & Truth,
Barbara Blair, Author
A las Hermanas Aleu,
Las hemos tenido muy cerca de nuestro corazón y oraciones en estos días. Que seria de nosotros si no tuviéramos al Señor en momentos como estos, verdad? Bueno, como hijos de Dios sabemos que en Cristo no morimos, sino que vivimos para siempre, y que al separarnos de aquí...simplemente nos lleva mas cerca al Señor y tu mamacita ahora esta mas cerca del corazón de Jesús para seguir orando por todas ustedes...por la familia, y para ayudarlas y apoyarlas con toda libertad. Que el Señor les fortalezca y les deje experimentar Sus Gracias muy especiales en estos días.
Marilynn Kramar y
Esther Julia Garzón
Carisma en Misiones
Olgy, Thank you for creating the tribute to your mother. She has been in my heart and now I have a way to better know her life story. She is clearly a person who is an inspiration to all and it is clear that you and your sisters are her legacy.
As you said, her life was an example of living possibilities in God's love. How can any of us be afraid when we think of how courageous she was.
I think of the part of the story you told me of leaving Cuba with nothing but the clothes on your backs to start over in a new country. With my acknowledgement of her, I send my acknowledgement of you and your sisters. You live in the same light. She lives on.
Barbara Hoskins, Ph.D.
Oh Maricel, I am a bit in shock right now. This is just not something that I thought you would have to face for a long time. But God's time is the right time. I know how much you loved and will always love her. Olga was a most remarkable woman. So strong when she needed to be and patient and kind and generous with her daughters. She was very beautiful and a lover of beautiful things. How blessed she was, God surrounded her with beautiful daughters. My prayers are with you and all your family.
I read the tribute, Olgy. How beautiful. What a truly extraordinary woman your mother was. She'll walk by your side now, and help you finish your wonderful novels.
Victoria Hanley, Author
My condolences on your loss. The tribute page is lovely, and it and your message here are a good reminder to cherish those we love and to record their stories while we can. Your mother was blessed indeed to have such devoted daughters.
Laura Deal, Author
Olgy, mi amiga especial, lo siento y envío mis condolencias--pero qué regalo fue tu Mama en sus vidas y Ustedes fueron un regalo para ella, verdad? You were all truly blessed to have such a woman en sus vidas y you are right to know that she lives, still, in sus corazones y sus almas. She will continue to guide you y love you desde el cielo. It is wonderful that you have such a wonderful relationship with each other and that you continue to honor her and her memory. I look forward to reading the tributes y sharing en el milagro de esta conexión profunda.
Abrazos y besos,
Denise Vega, Author
Mamá, mi musulmán - I miss you. Tu eras todo para mi (you were my everything). You loved me unconditionally and always believed in me, even when I did not. I receive the gift of your joyful parting. You were my Prayer Warrior and are now my Guardian Angel. Te quiero mucho Mamá.
Tu hija Número 2,
I'm sorry for your loss, Olgy. I'm sure she will continue to inspire you for the rest of your life.
Lynda Sandoval, Author
I was so very sorry to hear of the loss of your Mother, Maricel. Please know that you and your family are in our thoughts and prayers. May our Lord grant you the peace and understanding you will need to get through this very difficult time. If you ever need to talk, you know I am always here for you. God's blessings to all of you,
Querida Mari, Mis oraciones y cariño están contigo. A pesar de estar lejos, siempre estas en mis pensamientos. Siempre recordaré a tu Mami, fue una de mis mejores amigas y la quería mucho. Te pido que trates de ser fuerte, no te sientas triste ni llores porque vas a ser sentir muy triste a tu Mami. Ella las quería a ustedes mucho - tu eras su gran preocupación. En donde ella este, la vas hacer muy feliz. Lamento no estar cerca de ti para darte el consuelo que necesitas. Que el Señor te cuide y que llene tu corazón de alegría y sonrisas que con eso tu Mami se va a sentir feliz!
Olgy, I'm so sorry to hear about your mom's passing. She was clearly a brave and compassionate person--you're evidence to this. And I hope that you can finally finish your book(s) about your amazing life and flight from Cuba. Not that she needs the tribute (your love and that of your sisters is more than enough!), but it would be such a wonderful way to memorialize her.
Hugs from England,
Meridee Cecil, Author
May this soul find eternal peace while she watches over and protects those she loves. God has a place for all of us.
Felix Ricardo, myspace friend
Dear Olgy, My deepest sympathies to you in your grief. It is clear from your website to see how your mother’s spirit has guided you and influenced you. She will always be with you.
Nancy Bentley, Author
Maricel, Albis, Alina, Elena & Olgy,
I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your mother. It must have been quite a shock to you and your family. She was loved by many, and will too be missed greatly by them. She will live on in the hearts of everyone who loved her. She was special to me, I always looked forward to the times we spent together. I am grateful to have known her.
Her devotion to her "girls" was unending, it was easy to see that, she was very kind and loving. Mom & I wish you and your family a peaceful heart and hope you know how much we care.
May you find comfort in the memories that are yours to cherish always, and strength in the companionship of those who share your loss. If there is anything I can do, please let me know.
Dear Olgy, My condolences on the loss of your mother. What a happy thing to have such an encouraging and inspirational person in your life.
Hazel Krantz, Author
What a beautiful tribute to Tia, she was truly a special lady. Thank you for sharing her story with all of us.
Mayra, your Miami Cousin Dear
Maricel; What a remarkable woman your mother was! As a VNA Friendly Volunteer, I liked her from the very beginning, and always looked forward to seeing her again. My love for her grew as much as our friendship. I only knew her for a few months, and I was saddend when she left us, but I will never forget her vitality, her joy, and most of all her deep spirituality. May she rest in peace with the chosen in the glory of God.
With love and appreciation,
Olgy, Your Mamá was well loved. What more could you ask from a life? I know she'll always be shining a light on you. XOX
Julie Anne Peters, Author
A las hermanas Aleu (To all the Aleu sisters)
Thank you for sharing these beautiful words with us. We are a blessed congregation to have known and walked along side your mother for a number of years. We continue to remember her smile and dedication to God's church here in Colorado Springs. We continue to pray for each of you.
Pastor Cesar y Lynda Arroyo
Iglesia Cristiana Getsemani
Copyright © 2008 by The Aleu Family. All rights reserved.