Elena Castaneda passed away on Saturday, February 6, 2021 in Alameda, California at the age at 92. She is survived by her son, David Castaneda and her daughter, Gina Fahouri as well as a generation of grandchildren and greatgrandchildren.
Elena grew up alongside her sister, Margaret Castaneda and was raised by her mother, Margarita, her grandmother Luz and her three uncles Manuel, Augustin and Ricardo in Los Angeles, California. Her family was close, and though of modest means they provided the essentials and some joy for the two girls. Elena recalled that as a young child she had to share a pair of skates with her sister, because they couldn’t afford to buy two pairs, but she remembered the fun of trading off. She also described going to the movies with her mother and seeing the Wizard of Oz in 1939 for her 11th birthday at a lavish Downtown Los Angeles movie theater and feeling rich because she had never seen anything so fancy.
As a young adult she developed an interest in the Jazz scene of 1940s and would take the street cars to clubs along Central Avenue. This era made an impression on her and she would often talk about the bands and what is was like for her to be in the midst of it all. She was always interested in new things and as she grew older she started to get interested in belly dance. She tried to teach 5 year old Gina how to shimmy or use finger cymbals.
She was a good homemaker and a good mother. She loved to bake and make candies and there was always something sweet to eat at home. She made rum cake, cherry pie, apple pie, cream puffs, sugar cookies, thumb print cookies filled w/jam, her famous peanut butter cookies, jelly rolls, the occasional donut, along with fudge and caramels that she would make for her uncle, Manuel on his birthday. Elena also was an avid seamstress and the handmade costumes she stitched late into the night were often contest winners at the local school.
The closing chapter of her life, Elena lived in Alameda close to her daughter and granddaughter Ema. To Ema she was always Mimah Meow Meow, derived from the cat messages on the phone. Most weeks, the family would bundle her off from her nursing facility into Southshore Plaza Mall, a little groove that usually involved lunch at Applebees, hide and seek in the hallways of the mall, a bit of shopping and a coffee where she (being hard of hearing) would gossip way too loudly about the folks at the neighboring tables. It was a simple pleasure, and the disruption during coronavirus hurt our hearts. Through it all her son David Castaneda would call her on a daily basis, sometimes even twice a day, from his home in Southern California. These calls meant a lot to her and helped her feel even more connected to her family near and far.
In our family we believe that when you die, the family members who died before you come to greet you. I was talking to my cousin Tony a few days ago about his mom Margaret who was my aunt, my mother’s sister and who died in 2013. He told me that he had recently dreamt about his mother and that she was sitting at a bus stop. In his dream, he asked her what she was doing there and she replied, “I’m waiting for somebody”. Elena will soon rest at the family plot at the Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles, surrounded by loved ones who are guiding her. A small service will be held for family and close friends via zoom.
Elena had a tender heart for animals and would appreciate donations to your local animal shelter in lieu of flowers.
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