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Saturnina R. Torres

Humble, independent matriarch, realtor

Saturnina R. Torres, died peacefully on Sunday, July 26 in Claremont, surrounded by her loving family. She had suffered a stroke on July 3. She was 94 years old.

Mrs. Torres was born Saturnina Rivera to Refugio and Maria Rivera on December 29, 1925, in San Francisco del Oro, Chihuahua, a small mining village in Mexico.

Her father was a machinist at the local mine and owned a small locksmith business. Her mother was a former teacher. She was the sixth of 10 children, and although her family was poor, she grew up surrounded by the love and support of a close knit community of extended family, friends and neighbors.

She loved learning and attended school only to the sixth grade, as was the custom for poor families at the time. However, as an adult and naturalized US citizen, she earned her GED and took college courses, eventually earning a real estate license in her 60s after her children were grown. She instilled a respect for education and passed on her love of reading and learning to her children, all of whom are college graduates.

An athletic child, she played basketball in school and loved being active, taking long walks and enjoying nature. She and her sisters performed in local theater productions, and she worked at the local cooperative, where she learned about textiles and sewing. She later became an expert seamstress, making her own clothes and those of her children. 

“Everything mom made was perfect, made with her special touch, representing the love and care she had for all of us,” said her daughter Sandy Silva. “We wore everything she made for us with pride.”

She loved listening to music, singing and going to dances as a young woman, although she had to contend with her brother Pancho, a constant and many times unwelcomed chaperone, who sized up all prospects with a disapproving eye. 

She was beautiful and popular, and received several marriage proposals in her twenties, turning them all down to work, yearning to travel and be independent.

After her younger siblings married and began to start their families, Saturnina left her hometown at age 30 for the United States on a work visa, living and working in El Paso, Texas, where she met her future husband, native Texan and US Navy serviceman Jesus “Chuy” Torres, of El Paso.

After a whirlwind courtship, they were married on April 16, 1957 in El Paso. A few weeks later they boarded a passenger ship and set sail for Hawaii, where Mr. Torres was stationed.

They lived in Honolulu for four years, where their first two children, Sandy and Cindy, were born. Mrs. Torres often spoke about how she never imagined going to Hawaii while growing up in Mexico, and how she loved being a military wife because of the travel.

The family returned to the mainland in 1961, settling in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Mr. Torres began officer training at Kirtland Air Force Base. The following year  their third daughter Diana was born.

Another move took the family to San Diego, then to Long Beach. She often recalled how hectic and exciting her life was with three young daughters and the travel associated with being a navy family. 

There was more excitement to come, and hardship, as Mr. Torres was shipped out in 1964 at the start of the Vietnam War, leaving her alone with three young girls. For four years and throughout her husband’s three tours of duty, she was a devoted navy wife, listening to tape recorded reels from her Mr. Torres and celebrating every letter received.

She learned English, and how to drive, and handled the family finances for the first time, not knowing if her husband would return alive. All the while she was intensely protective of her daughters; she took correspondence courses to learn bookkeeping in case she was left to support the family. She was a naturally reserved woman: quiet, introverted, yet fiercely independent, humble, yet confident in herself.

In 1968, Mr. Torres returned from Vietnam and the family moved again, this time back to El Paso, where a few years later their last child James was born.

Mr. Torres retired from the Navy with his wife by his side, having joined in 1945 and serving nearly 30 years.

In 1976 the family returned to California after their oldest daughter graduated from high school and Mr. Torres began a second career with the Social Security Administration. The family moved first to Ontario for two years then settled in West Covina, where they remained for 30 years.

Mrs. Torres began working as a bookkeeper as their next two daughters graduated from high school. By the time their son James graduated, she had earned her real estate license. She was a successful realtor during the 1990s.

By then her two older daughters were married and the grandchildren started arriving. She was a loving grandmother to her five grandchildren, adding two more in 2018 when son James remarried and daughter-in-law Mayerling brought two young children into the Torres family. She loved being “nana” to her two youngest grandchildren.

Mrs. Torres nursed her husband through his battle with lung cancer and was at his side when he died in 2003. They were married 46 years.

She lived independently in her remaining years, still driving well into her eighties. Despite a dementia diagnosis in 2013, she was still able to remember all her loved ones and care for her personal needs. She survived a prior stroke with a full recovery in 2014 and enjoyed being with her children and their families. 

She was devoted to her children, loved her pets, playing Chinese Checkers, Sudoku puzzles, couponing, gardening, taking walks and watching reruns of Frasier. She was also politically aware, and often expressed her concern about the state of the country. 

After 10 years of independent and assisted living, she moved in with her children, rotating among all four, spending weekends with her grandchildren and traveling to their homes. A change of scenery was always welcome and the perfect example of how she always wanted to live her life, with a new adventure every few weeks.

Mrs. Torres was preceded in death by her devoted husband Jesus, her parents, seven siblings, her beloved grandson Kyle Briones, and nephews Joel Rivera and Carlos Castillo.

She is survived by her four loving children, Sandy Silva (Gabe) of Claremont; Cindy Briones (Maurice) of Ontario; Diana Pelletier (Dan) of Lake Forest, California; and James Torres (Mayerling) of Corona.

She leaves her grandchildren to cherish her memory: Rene Briones, of Ontario; Sean Briones, of Arcata, California; Max Silva, of Claremont; Rachel Torres, and Rene and Olivia Castro, all of Corona. She is also survived by her two sisters, Socorro Casarez of El Paso, Texas and Benigna Castillo of San Jose, California, and their families.

“She will be remembered as a graceful, gentle woman who kept her family at the center of her life,” Her family shared. “She will be dearly missed.”

The family would like to thank the staff of Prestigious Hospice for their care and kindness these last few weeks. Mrs. Torres will be interred alongside her husband at Riverside National Cemetery.

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