Enveloped by the love of family, Luciana P. Leyva of Alpine, Texas, passed away on March 6, 2021, at the age of 81. Catholic services were held in Alpine on March 11-12, and she will be laid to rest on Tuesday, March 23, at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.
It is appropriate, even poetic, that Luciana exited the world under the devoted vigilance of her children, given her sheer dedication to them her entire adult life. From the moment she became a mother for the first time, she threw herself into providing and caring for them, and shaping their moral values. Due to the problems of her first marriage, much of it happened as a working single mother, a challenge she often looked back on with a sense of accomplishment and a deep gratitude to God, whom she credited for the unflappable faith and fortitude she developed as a result.
As a parent, she was strict and not above stern discipline when necessary. A deeply spiritual Catholic, she also set high ethical standards for her children, and incorporated into their routine weekly mass and other religious rituals at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Alpine. This provided for her family a sense of community and a framework for a very solid moral foundation and sense of service, one that persisted even after her children had set out on their own paths, and even for those who ultimately left the Church. Rather than despairing at the fact that some of her children no longer shared her religion, she took pride in the fact that all of them had grown up to be loving and charitable people.
Without question, any of her children’s admirable qualities are due, in large part, to the way Luciana modeled her religious and spiritual ideals. Behind the no-nonsense approach to parenting stood a fierce love for her kids, and a full investment in their well-being and success, an unwavering sustenance that earned her their life-long respect, admiration, and love.
With her immense capacity to care for others, she was an equally sustaining force for other family members, namely her parents, Ysidra and Gustavo Portillo, to name only a couple. Despite the stress of raising her own children, she routinely looked after them, especially as seniors, when their health began to falter. When her mother’s death was imminent, Luciana brought her into her home and nursed her herself, fulfilling the commitment Luciana had made to her that she would never die in a nursing home. Other extended family members sought her out as well for advice, support, and companionship, or to bond with her fun-loving personality and savor her penchant for smiles and laughter.
In addition to her benevolence, Luciana possessed a strong activist spirit and a sense of civic responsibility. At various points in her adult life, she called out what she considered racist attitudes or discriminatory practices toward Alpine’s Mexican-American community. She wrote letters to the editor in the Alpine Avalanche to express her outrage on particular town initiatives, and when it sparked some backlash, she stood by her principles, refusing to back down. She even took on public office in 1986, when she was elected to a term on the Alpine ISD school board, thanks to a galvanizing effort by her and other Latino leaders to get more Latinos to the polls.
In 1989, Luciana married her second husband, Palemon R. Leyva, who remained her devoted and loving companion for the rest of her life. Several years into their marriage, the couple purchased a home in the South Double Diamond Ranch community, one they called “Rinconcito en el cielo.” A nature lover, Luciana fell in love with the rustic, peaceful ambience the first time she saw it, and for the next 22 years, it remained that “small corner of heaven” for both of them.
Periodically, the couple traveled to other parts of Texas, namely, Midland and Dallas, to spend time with their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Often, the impetus was the holidays or special family events. At other times, it was prompted by an urgency to support their children facing a challenge. Luciana was quick to drop everything, and rush to her children’s side when they needed her.
Perhaps it is that steadfast maternal devotion that her children will miss the most. The grief weighs heavily on them now, as it does on her husband and the entire extended family as they attempt to transition to life without her. Yet there is a shared suspicion that Luciana will remain a loving, life-giving presence for them in some way, albeit a new and very different one that will require much adjustment.
Surviving family members include her husband, Palemon R. Leyva, and seven of her 10 children and their spouses, Jose Olivas (Dora), Roberto Olivas (Nitiphat), Maria M. Rios (Ricardo), Maria R. Olivas, Abel Olivas (Robert), Tino Olivas, and Jesus Olivas (Martha). She also leaves behind another daughter-in-law, Celina L. Olivas (Zacarias Olivas III, deceased), and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, in addition to siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, an aunt, and many friends.
In the minds and hearts of all of them, Luciana lives eternally as a pillar of strength and love.