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Elba Ruth Chaidez, League of United Latin American Citizens volunteer, dies

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obit photo of Elba Ruth Chaidez

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Updated: November 9, 2012 6:20AM

Elba Ruth Chaidez may not have spoken perfect English, but that didn’t stop her from striking up conversations with strangers.

Mrs. Chaidez, a longtime Aurora resident who was originally from Guatemala, seemed to make friends with whomever she met, whether it was the server at the local pancake house or a fellow shopper at the grocery store.

“She knew all of Aurora,” said one of her daughters, Elizabeth Kline. “She had this infectious personality that drew people to her.”

It was not unusual for Mrs. Chaidez to develop lifelong friendships from casual encounters. In the ’80s when Mrs. Chaidez found out Magdalena Navar, a friend’s sister, had cancer, she paid her a visit even though they had never met. They remained close ever since.

“She appeared at my house,” Navar said. “I didn’t know who it was. I had never seen her. And she introduced herself. We started talking. She had bought me a little souvenir. I still have that and I cherish it.”

On Sept. 29, Mrs. Chaidez died at Provena Mercy Medical Center in Aurora of complications related to a heart attack and a stroke.

Mrs. Chaidez, who routinely dressed to the nines in her 4-foot-11-inch frame and wore her signature red lipstick, never revealed her age. She made her children promise that even after her death they were to never disclose her birthday.

Mrs. Chaidez was born and raised in Guatemala. She and her older sister often pitched in at the general store their parents owned. After attending college, Mrs. Chaidez became a grade school teacher.

She traveled to the U.S. on occasion, and during one of her trips, she stayed with a family in Aurora and met her future husband, Pedro, at a Christmas Eve dinner. After she returned to Guatemala, the two stayed in touch.

“He said he would spend his whole paycheck on calling her,” Kline said of her father. “Finally he told her, ‘Why don’t you just come back here?’”

Though her mother was not pleased with her leaving, Mrs. Chaidez moved to the U.S. and married Pedro in the early 1970s.

“What I really admire about her is her determination,” said Mrs. Chaidez’s niece, Karla Silva. “She was the first generation to arrive to Chicago, and she opened up a big path for a lot of people, especially for Guatemalan people.”

Mrs. Chaidez was very proud of her Guatemalan heritage, but she also felt it was important to become a U.S. citizen, which she did in 1995. She became active in the League of United Latin American Citizens and persuaded her husband, who was originally from Mexico, to become a U.S. citizen as well.

A mother of three girls, Mrs. Chaidez taught her daughters the value of education. All three attended Catholic schools.

Mrs. Chaidez attended mass weekly at St. Rita of Cascia Parish in the far western suburb and prayed the rosary every day.

“Whenever we’d leave, she’d stand in the window and do the sign of the cross for us to bless us as we left her house,” said her daughter, Elba Marie Urbealis.

“She was a deeply joyful woman of faith who hardly met anyone who was not her friend,” said the Rev. Robert J. Willhite, retired pastor of St. Rita.

Mrs. Chaidez often repeated a phrase in Spanish that translates to: “There’s nothing in life that’s impossible with God.”

“Her words of encouragement were so powerful,” said another one of her daughters, Valeska Chaidez. “She’d always call us ‘mi reina’ — ‘my queen’ ­— just to make us feel better about ourselves no matter what.”

Hundreds of people attended Mrs. Chaidez’s funeral and wake services last week and shared memories of her kindness.

“She was a little lady, but she was big-hearted,” said her friend Socorro Villanueva.

Aside from her daughters, Mrs. Chaidez is survived by her husband, four grandchildren, her mother and her sister.

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