|Birth: ||Nov. 9, 1919|
|Death: ||Jan. 29, 2007|
West Valley View, Avondale, Arizona
February 2, 2007
Raul and Theresa's matriarch dies
by Frank Morris
Theresa Martinez Chayrez, 87, co-owner of Raul and Theresa's Mexican Restaurant in Avondale, died Jan. 29, 2007, at her home in Avondale.
One of five children, Mrs. Chayrez was born Nov. 9, 1919, in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, to Jesusita and Manuel Martinez. She moved with her family while an infant to Litchfield Park, where they resided in Goodyear Farms Camp 52. She attended Litchfield Elementary and High schools, and later married Raul Chayrez.
Theresa's cooking career started in the late 1950s, when she and her sister Angelita opened La Tepiquena in Phoenix. Years later, she went to work at El Molino Tamale Shop, then El Intimo Restaurant, in Phoenix.
In the mid-1960s, her brother Arturo opened a restaurant at the site of the current Roman's Oasis, on Yuma Road in Goodyear. Theresa became the cook.
"That's where we met, and where we first started our business," Mr. Chayrez said. "We both got into it. She was the one with the cooking experience and not me - it's all hers."
In 1968, the couple bought the Old Valley Steakhouse at 519 W. Main St. in Avondale, and turned it into the award-winning Raul and Theresa's Mexican Restaurant.
"Her cooking was the best. She did all the cooking, and then when she couldn't cook anymore, she taught some of the cooks there her own recipes," niece Terri De Santi said.
"She never hired anyone that had experience because she didn't want anybody messing up her cooking," Mr. Chayrez added.
A mark on the community
Mr. and Mrs. Chayrez were active members in the Southwest Valley Chamber of Commerce since 1994.
"They're absolutely amazing community members. They've consistently, through the years, been involved with nonprofits, especially organizations that have to do with kids," said Sharolyn Hohman, president and CEO of the Southwest Valley Chamber of Commerce. "Where they see a need, they're willing to step to the plate,"
Mrs. Chayrez will be remembered "kindly, and with respect," Hohman said. "She was one of the business pioneers of our community."
And despite her death, "fortunately, her name in the restaurant will remain with us for a very long time, so she will stay alive in the community," Hohman added.
Mrs. Chayrez had been suffering from what doctors believed was pancreatic cancer.
"They couldn't do a biopsy because she was too weak; her body wouldn't tolerate that," De Santi said.
"She was suffering a lot lately, so in a way, it was kind of a blessing for her and everyone around her," her husband said. "It's hard, very hard, but we've got to move on."
He had a very good life with Theresa, Mr. Chayrez said.
"I think I was very lucky. I don't know, at times I don't think she thought she wasn't too lucky," he said with a laugh. "But we got along good. We did some traveling, we had a good life. I can't complain."
The couple raised one son, William, who died in 2004. Though he was not their biological son, "to him, we were his parents, and his kids are with me right now. They're always with me," Mr. Chayrez said.
This past fall, at a celebration attended by Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, and Mayors Marie Lopez Rogers of Avondale, Bobby Bryant of Buckeye and Adolfo Gamez of Tolleson, a proclomation was made declaring Oct. 29, "Raul and Theresa's Day."
"We were pretty honored about that," Mr. Chayrez said.
Despite his wife's death, Mr. Chayrez has no plans to close his restaurant.
"I'm going to still keep it, I'm going to hang on," he said. "My health is not the best, but not bad yet. I can get around pretty good."
His wife's legacy will continue to live, he added. She'll be remembered for "what she did, wanting to always help people that needed help and not all that interested in becoming a rich person. We're just regular people," Mr. Chayrez said.
"I think that the community and everybody around here is going to miss her. I know I'm going to miss her a lot," he said. "It's not going to be the same. Even though she was not too active in the business these last couple of years, still it was all her, all her cooking and everything - that's what made Raul and Theresa's."
Mrs. Chayrez is survived by her husband of 42 years, Raul; and three grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 6 to 9 p.m. today at St. John Vianney Catholic Church, Central Avenue at Loma Linda Boulevard in Goodyear. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. Saturday, also at St. John Vianney Catholic Church. Interment will be at Greenwood Memory Lawn Cemetery in Phoenix.
Greer-Wilson Funeral Home in Phoenix made the arrangements.
Frank Morris can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greenwood Memory Lawn Cemetery
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Record added: Nov 24, 2009
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