November 2016 eNewsletter: The Gomez Family Legacy

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It’s All Relative – The Gomez Family Legacy

The First Generation.

The Gomez sisters – Celia Gomez De Ramirez ’59, Carmen Gomez ’61 (deceased) and Maria Antonieta Gomez ’66 – were the first generation of OLP graduates in their family. Maria Antonieta and both of her siblings attended grammar school at OLP in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Their family lived in Tijuana so they had to drive across the United States/Mexico border every day with their classmates’ parents, as their parents worked full-time.

Maria Antonieta’s father was a doctor and many of the respected families in Tijuana sent their daughters to OLP, as it was well known throughout Mexico as a great school. Her father said “we are neighbors to the U.S. and it makes sense for us to learn English.” When she started kindergarten at five years old, she knew little to no English. She remembers one day, “just starting to understand everything.”

Some of Maria Antonieta’s precious memories as a grammar school student includes enjoying graham crackers with the Sisters out on the Point and the lovely pansies that grew all around campus. She also fondly remembers a beautiful, wooden merry-go-round located behind St. Catherine’s. The girls were able to ride it during classroom breaks and again after school just before dinner if they lived at the school, known as “boarder” students.

Maria Antonieta did not realize how much of an impact the OLP education had on her until she started college in Mexico at the age of 50. It was then she really understood that she gained a different perspective on almost everything through her education at OLP. It was “a completely different world view being at a non-Catholic,” co-ed school in Mexico. She had to relearn many things in different ways. Learning both the culture and ways of Mexico and the culture and ways of America has allowed her to see the world through a different lens.

The Second Generation.

When it came time to send her daughters to high school, Maria Antonieta was happy that all three of them had the opportunity to go to OLP. Because they were living in Mexico at the time, Maria Antonieta’s two oldest daughters, Antonieta De Lavat Gomez ’88 and Maria Aidee Gomez ’89 did not attend OLP until their sophomore and junior years, respectively. Their youngest sister, Andrea Gomez ’93, started her freshman year.

There were similarities that Maria Aidee and her mother experienced during their time at Villa Montemar. They both had a nun as a principal. Sister Evelyn Joseph, CSJ was Maria Antonieta’s principal and Sr. Dolores Anchondo was Maria Aidee’s. There was a swimming pool on campus, although neither of them swam in it. They also both remember OLP’s beloved annual Candlelight Procession, a tradition that is still carried on today! The year that Maria Aidee graduated was the first year the Christmas hymns and carols were sung in both English and Spanish.

Maria Aidee remembers all of her teachers being great, but her favorite was Sister Charleen Munana, her typing teacher. “She was always very nice and got along very well the students,” Maria Aidee said. Maria Aidee appreciates that OLP had a strong focus on academics and is very grateful for the friendships she made during her high school years.

The Third Generation.

Maria Aidee’s daughter, Maria Aidee Varriale Gomez ’20, just started her freshman year at OLP. Her grandmother, Maria Antonieta, insists that she intentionally influenced her granddaughter to attend her alma mater by hanging her OLP paper dolls on the refrigerator. She had always hoped her granddaughter could attend, but until recently, they lived in Florida.

So far, Maria Aidee Varriale is off to a great start at OLP. She is doing well in school and has learned many things over the first month of classes. Her favorite class is French with Mrs. Nicole Rayner. Just like her mother, she believes that OLP is something much more than just a place to get an education; it is a place where she will form strong, lasting friendships.

Maria Antonieta is proud that her granddaughter gets to experience all that OLP has to offer and is following in the footsteps of the Gomez women before her. In a few more years, she will be dusting off her OLP paper dolls and hanging them back on the refrigerator as another one of her granddaughters gears up for high school. It seems evident that the Gomez family legacy will continue for years to come.