(photo taken Oct. 4 at 80th birthday party)
Inspiring UTSA employee Rose Mendez dies at age 80
By Viviana Rojas
Associate Professor of Communication
(Jan. 19, 2009)--Editor's Note: Viviana Rojas interviewed Rose Mendez after her retirement party last fall and was in the process of writing a story for UTSA Today about her life and impact on the UTSA community. UTSA Today did not learn of Mendez' death until after the memorial service, but it seemed appropriate to proceed with the story, including the sad news of her death. For information on memorial donations in honor of Rose Mendez, contact Trevino Funeral Home at (210) 434-0595.
Rosa G. Mendez, a recently retired UTSA facilities services employee, died Jan. 7 at age 80. A UTSA employee since 1992, Mendez collapsed Dec. 31 from a massive heart attack while leaving campus, after completing her last day of work before retirement. She was under hospice care until her death.
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Known as "Rose" to her many UTSA friends and co-workers, she encouraged everyone she knew to "always make the best of life." Additionally, she was a founding member of the UTSA Staff Council.
Three years ago, Mendez announced she would celebrate her 80th birthday on Oct. 4, 2008, with family and friends. She planned everything carefully. She rented a big salon with ample parking spaces and mailed the colorful invitations. Two hundred family members, co-workers and UTSA colleagues met to celebrate her vitality and a life devoted to service. She showered the guests with traditional Mexican food, good music and two huge birthday cakes -- and even danced to the rhythm of the Mariachis.
After Mendez finished high school, she attended Durham Business College in San Antonio for two years. She worked part-time at the Solo Serve retail store while in high school. After graduation, she was a medical secretary at Bexar County Hospital, now University Hospital. She then worked for the public health system as a statistician, and then as a mortgage service officer for the City of San Antonio.
Retiring once in 1990, Mendez went back to work in 1992 at UTSA. She worked in the Humanities and Social Sciences Building on the 1604 Campus and during the last four years in the Multidisciplinary Studies Building, working 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. She liked the nights because she thought it was easier to do the cleaning job. She also was an active participant in UTSA committees and assisted in the creation of the staff council. She proudly told colleagues that she was on the committee that interviewed four candidates for the UTSA presidency. Last year, she served on the Council for Business Affairs.
Mendez was a familiar face to political science and sociology professors, as well as the staff of the Office of Research Integrity and Compliance and the Office of Sponsored Programs, among others. She was polite, engaging, communicative and interesting. Her bilingualism was a plus because she could easily connect the Hispanic and Anglo cultures and represented a symbiosis of both worlds.
At work, she would dress for every celebration. But, her life was not all work. During Fiesta San Antonio, she would take off the 10 days and attend the Night in Old San Antonio celebration and the parades.
Rose was funny and lucky, too. Mendez said, "I am not much of a TV person. I love plants, I love to read mystery novels and I love to play bingo at Plaza del Rey on weekends." She liked to play at the casino in Louisiana and, once in a while, would make an overnight trip by bus to play -- often coming back with twice as much as money as she left with. She dreamed of going to Las Vegas after retirement, but it had to be by bus because she wouldn't fly.
Rose was the youngest of 16 children in an old San Antonio family; her grandparents were born here. "All my brothers and sisters are dead. I am the last one," she said. However, she always had a positive outlook toward life. A few days after her birthday party she said, "I am really looking forward to my 100s. If I ever retire, I plan to do volunteer work because there are many places where you can do good."
"I am very happy, very active and I love my job," said Mendez. "I have made lots of friends, who are students, faculty and staff." She kept working because of a doctor's recommendation to stay active. "I want to do this, and not just sit down at home."
Rose Mendez' advice to students was: "Always do the best you can do -- study and always be optimistic, never give up."
Her advice to the rest of us was: "Remember, yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today God has given you a gift. Make the best of it. Do good and enjoy life. That's what you have to keep doing."