Rosa Augusto

Courageous immigrant, devoted friend

Rosa Louisa Letechi Augusto, a longtime Claremont resident, died peacefully in her sleep on Saturday, June 6, 2015. She was 95.

She was born in the middle of the earth on March 22, 1920 in the coastal town of Guayaquil, Ecuador in South America. She and her childhood friends Maria and Josephine were very supportive of each other, and Rosa was considered more like a family member than a friend. In fact, Maria made Rosa the godmother of her youngest daughter Maria. To be a madrina or godmother is a special role in the Catholic religion, similar to being a spiritual mother of a child all their lives.

After a series of events, including the death of Rosa’s mother, she and her friends made plans to immigrate to the United States together. Josie left first, then Maria made plans to leave her child in Rosa’s care while she sought work in America. A year later, in 1949, Rosa and little Maria left together for New York City where the other two women had found work. It was winter and Rosa, who had come from a tropical land, had never seen snow. In fact, she had never traveled outside her rural homeland, so it took courage to be in one of the largest cities in the world and to begin a new life without knowing the language.

As with so many immigrants, she accomplished this task with courage and determination and without an education or special work skills. The three women encouraged each other and like her friends, Rosa found work, first as an au pair and afterwards as a designer of hats for her employers’ business. A few years later, she met and married a Portuguese seaman, Jose Augusto, and they had three children, Jose, Anthony and Maria. They lived in Long Island for many years.

In the late ‘70s, Ms. Augusto was encouraged by her two friends to move to California, and it was then that she and her husband bought a home on Arrow Highway in Claremont. Although they would divorce many years later, Rosa and Jose remained friends until the ends of their lives.

After her divorce, her godchild encouraged Ms. Augusto, who was a friendly and caring person, to use her people skills and to be more a part of her community. Although she was in her 60s, she became a caretaker for seniors who were in their 90s. Rosa entertained them with her storytelling and her amusing proverbs. For example, when she described someone who was making excuses she would say, “If someone wants a kiss, they find the lips.” Or if she felt a person was not being truthful, she would add, “It is easier to catch a liar than a lame man.” These were colorful sayings from her native culture that often made people laugh.

Ms. Augusto eventually began to volunteer at the Joslyn Senior Center, and continued to serve devotedly for 25 years. She made many friends and because of her dedicated work, the city of Claremont gave her an honorary certificate. Some years later, the California Senate celebrated her with a commendation as a “Heroine for the Day,” an award she joyfully received.

Ms. Augusto was in her 90s when she died, yet her friendships with people of all ages were of long duration. Once you were Rosa’s friend, she never forgot you during holidays, your birthday or your anniversary. She did this through visitations, phone contact and, when she could no longer get around, by keeping the art of letter writing alive.

She prayed for people both living and dead and, because of her loving nature and her advancing years, her prayer time increased as she commended the living and the dead to God.

Rosa’s friendship with Maria lasted 88 years, longer than most marriages! They lost Josie, who passed a few years ago in her late 90s. Maria is now 96 and, when asked how she felt about losing her lifelong friend, she answered, “It is a profound sadness than only Rosa would understand.”

Rosa leaves her children, Jose, Anthony and Maria, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren as well as her godchild, Claremont resident and counselor Maria J. Andrade. She also leaves her extended family and many other friends who will not forget her.

A mass was held in her honor at Our Lady of Assumption Church. Contributions may be made in Rosa Augusto’s name to the Friends of Claremont Senior Foundation, 660 N. Mountain Ave., Claremont, CA 91711.

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