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Angela  Garza Abrego

Obituary for Angela Garza Abrego

October 9, 1926 - December 28, 2018
San Antonio, Texas | Age 92


Angela Garza Abrego led a life dedicated to serving God. Born to Eduviges Garcia-Lopez and Librado Garza, Angela grew up on San Antonio's West Side. By the age of 10, she had lost both parents to tuberculosis. Missionaries took in the four Garza children and sent them to Presbyterian boarding schools.

Angela completed Cadet Nurse Corps training at Sage Memorial Hospital in Ganado, Arizona. The Navajo women in her class of 1947 became the first Native American women to serve in the U.S. Military, commemorated with a national monument inscribed with all the graduates' names.

Angela volunteered with pre-school children and youth of Hispanic churches, from the local to the national church. She championed women and people of color. She was preceded in death by her husband, Frank Reyna Abrego, and her sister, Frances Trevino. She is survived by her brothers, Florentino and Lalo Garza, children, Rita Abrego, Debbie Matusko, Frank Anthony Abrego, Irene Abrego (Tricia Buchhorn) and Francine Cantrell, grandchildren, Jacqueline (Thane), Rachel (Philippe), and Simon; and two great-grandchildren, Addison and Cade.

Saturday, January 19, 2019
11:00 AM
Divine Redeemer Presbyterian Church
407 N. Calaveras, San Antonio, TX 78207

Reception to follow at House of Neighborly Service.

Rev. Rob Mueller will be officiating. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to The Austin Theological Seminary, Divine Redeemer Capital Campaign or Presbyterian Pan-American School in 223 N FM 772, Kingsville, TX 78363.

Angela Garza Abrego was born Oct. 9, 1926, in Lockhart, but was raised on San Antonio's Westside. Her father Librado Garza served in the U.S. Guard in World War I in France. Neither he nor his wife Eduviges Garcia-Lopez were U.S. citizens though her mother became a naturalized citizen the year before she died. When Angela was 6, her father died of tuberculosis.
Her early years were spent in the Catholic Church where at 7, she made her first communion. That next year was confusing for Angela because her mother had been invited to attend another church, which she found very comforting. But Angela, afraid of going to hell as the Catholic Church preached, continued to attend mass before services at the new church each Sunday for a year before she found her home in Divine Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
By the time she was 10, her mother had also succumbed to tuberculosis. Angela, her sister and two brothers were taken in by missionaries at the House of Neighborly Service. The two girls went to the Presbyterian School for Mexican girls in Taft, Texas, and the two boys were cared for in San Antonio until they were old enough to attend Allison James in Santa Fe, N.M., then Menaul in Albuquerque.
Impressed with her mother's distinguished handwriting, Angela worked steadily to perfect her own stylish script. Her mother was also an excellent seamstress, which encouraged Angela to take up sewing, taking classes in various techniques to improve her skills. Angela was also a talented cook.
Angela turned down a full scholarship at Trinity University in favor of enrolling in the Nurse Cadet Corps training program in Ganado, Ariz. The program at Sage Memorial Hospital was run by the Presbyterian church. A number of Navajo women who were the first native American women to serve in the U.S. military also trained at the hospital. In 2009, the National Park Service named Sage Memorial Hospital a National Historic Landmark with a monument with each nurse's name inscribed on it. The 1947 graduate made lifelong friends in Ganado and reunited with some at the unveiling of the monument.
Training in northeast Arizona kept Angela close to her brothers. She saved money from her stipend to buy flannel shirts for the boys at the Hubbell Trading Post. She rode a mail truck from her rural hospital to visit her brothers. She also participated in a women's group that regularly presented skits and plays. One performance was to have an enormous impact on the course of her life. The topic was racism.
Angela was always grateful for the kind things people did for her and remembered them with cards, letters and visits. Among them were Izeyl J. Phelps and Wilma Callahan, who took in the Garza children and arranged for the wife of Dr. Raleigh R. White of Scott & White Medical Center in Temple to raise money through her Sunday school class for scholarships to send the girls to Taft. She also held in high regard Berta Murray, the headmistress of the Presbyterian School for Mexican Girls, whom Angela and her sister kept in touch with until her death at 102. Summers were spent on a Texas ranch of a relative of Miss Phelps and later with the family of Josie Guerra, which she considered the closest to a family she ever had. On her return to San Antonio because of her sister's health, Angela found another family in the home of Fernando and Sally Lopez.
While working as a public health nurse for the city of San Antonio, Angela met Frank Abrego, owner of Walter's Pharmacy. They married in 1949 and had five children. Frank wanted only two children while Angela wanted to field a baseball team. Eventually, they had three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
At Divine Redeemer, Angela became involved in the Women's Organization and in the Presbyterian Women's Group where she was Christian Education chair and much later served several years on the Nominating Committee. In the local church, she served in all areas, but particularly enjoyed Program and Finance and served as president several times. In 1960, she was ordained an elder.
During the 1960s, Angela and another nurse volunteered to conduct a health program at the preschools in the five Hispanic churches, checking eyes, hearing, teeth and doing minor lab tests. She also volunteered as a Sunday school teacher, youth group sponsor and with the Women's Association.
In 1977, when the Rev. Robert A. Brown Jr. retired from Divine Redeemer after 31 years, Angela was asked by the Session if she would consider being a part-time church administrator. For more than a year, she helped arrange funerals and weddings and assisted two interim pastors. When the Rev. Carlos A. Lopez responded to a call from Divine Redeemer, Angela visited shut-ins and hospital patients with Rev.
Lopez weekly. Rev. Lopez encouraged her to begin serving at other levels of the church.
In the late 1970s, Angela was invited to serve as Coordinator of Ethical Concerns on the Synod of the Sun's Women's Board. Through the efforts and recommendations of Helen Walton of Bentonville, Ark., who was moderator of the women, Angela was among 68 women who participated in "Las Americas Unidos" in 1981 and visited Cuba, which she found beautiful but very frustrating. It was the first time she was to experience the reality of political and religious persecution. She visited Cuba twice more and made good friends there.
Also in 1981, she became a charter member of the Committee on Racial Ethnic Women. She became the first Hispanic woman from the mainland to serve on the National Executive Committee of UPW from 1983-86. On the Program Committee for the national meeting at Purdue in 1985, she developed Night on Central America, securing leadership through the Mexican American Cultural Center and featuring a 60-foot mural created by the Cassiano Cultural Arts Group at Cassiano Housing Development in San Antonio.
Angela was one of seven people appointed by General Assembly former moderator Randolph Taylor to serve on the Special Committee on NCCC/WCC relations and causes of unrest in the church, which led to a visit in October 1984 to the World Council of Churches headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. She served on the Board of Trustees of McCormick Theological Seminary.
At the synod level, Angela served as the Coordinator of Ethical Concerns for the Presbyterian Women's Executive Council and leader development for the Racial Ethnic Women's Network. She was chair of the Validating Committee for Self-development of People for five years and represented racial and ethnic people and women on the planning committee for Connections '87. Angela served two terms on the Mexican American Coordinating Council, serving as program chair and chairperson.
Helping to establish several organizations, Angela found stimulating and strengthened her faith. She was elected to serve as the first moderator of the Women's Ministry Unit, and one of the highlights of her life was being Coordinator for Racial Justice Leadership Development and the Racial Ethnic Ministry. With this group, she coordinated the inaugural 1990 Racial Ethnic Convocation, bringing together in Houston, Texas, a group of 1,300 people from across the country, Puerto Rico and the world.
These are but a few of the many commitments she made to the Presbyterian church.
"I have always been reluctant to claim and own my gifts, talents and skills while encouraging others to own theirs. However, God blessed me by creating me a Mexican woman, by putting me in an environment where human suffering and deprivation were a way of life, thus providing me with an understanding of the struggles and hurts of people. I value the part I have played in helping people, especially women, to express their opinions, in encouraging a sense of humor, a willingness to learn and to being open to new and creative ideas."
Shortly thereafter, she was named director for Hispanic Ministries for the Synod of the Sun and Mission Presbytery. Some questioned how the pastors would accept a woman, but they turned out to be her greatest allies, giving her much encouragement and support.
"Very early in life, it came to me that there was no way to read the Gospels, to study and meditate on them without understanding that Christ was then and now the most political figure in history, and a firm strong advocate for justice: for women, for the hungry, for the homeless, etc. It is only through God's activity in our lives, through love and grace, that we are able to bear fruit. I believe and accept the blessings and gifts that are ours daily. I hope that I have been able to share with others these beliefs, which are an integral part of my life."

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House of Neighborly Service

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