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1929 Maria 2023

Maria Elisa Lester

June 19, 1929 — August 7, 2023



It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved mother, Maria Elisa (Herrera) Lester.  Exactly eight months to the day that we lost our beloved dad, she decided he had been without her long enough, and left to join him in heaven. 


Maria was born on June 19, 1929, in Harlingen, Texas, and left this world on August 7, 2023 (on what would have been her father’s birthday), from her home in Henderson, Nevada.  She is preceded in death by her beloved husband of over 60 years (Hugh), her parents (Cayetano and Francisca), and all her brothers, sisters, and their spouses.  She leaves behind a legacy of family, commitment, and love in her four children Luis (Norma), Mark (Susan), Melissa (Chuck), and Teresa; and in her 10 living and one departed grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren with two more currently on the way.  


Maria was a formidable force – she was an incredibly strong, committed, talented and intelligent woman.  She earned an associate degree in accounting from Pan American Regional College (what is now the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley), a significant accomplishment at that time.  She went on to work in a variety of jobs, including the secretary for the base commander of Moore Air Force Base in Mission, Texas.  There she met her husband Hugh who was in pilot training. 


Maria and Hugh married in Edinburg, Texas, and she traveled throughout the country with him and their children – living in USAF bases including Montgomery, Alabama; Sacramento, California; Blytheville, Arkansas; Limestone, Maine; and Las Vegas, Nevada.  She ran the household and managed their four children while Hugh was doing tours flying B52 bombers in the Vietnam War or living in missile crew quarters while on 16 day a month alert status– never missing a beat.  While a dear family friend would refer to Hugh as “the Colonel”, her children knew that their mom was “the General”.     


Maria was a stay-at-home mom when her children were growing up and was a frequent visitor/volunteer at the schools her children attended.  Maria had many interests and was very competitive – anything she took on, she put full effort into.  She was the 10th consultant for Mary Kay Cosmetics when the company started out – achieving great success in that organization until another move changed her direction.  She bowled in an Air Force Wives bowling league and was very proud of the 300-game plaque they gifted her with when she hit the pinnacle of success for bowlers.  She loved music and so enjoyed being a member of the Loring AFB Skylarks, a musical group who did covers of Broadway musicals and performed often at local events.  She also worked as the bookkeeper for the base thrift store. 


Maria returned to working outside the home when they moved to Nevada and started out at the Buster Brown clothing distribution center in Henderson.  When they closed their doors, she took a position at the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip, serving as the assistant to the Director of Entertainment, Advertising and Publicity.  She left that job to work for a new company producing gourmet chocolates and founded by Forrest Mars, Sr., of the Mars Candy Empire to honor his mother, Ethel.  Maria worked for Ethel M Chocolates for years, in the Accounts Payable Division.  She reluctantly retired but ended up working on a part-time basis for a former engineer with Ethel M at his start-up company for years. 


Maria was a devout Catholic and you knew you were on her good side when she would pray the rosary on your behalf.  She loved music, particularly musical productions and Johnny Mathis, and watching westerns and mysteries.  She could tell you whether a movie was going to be a dud in the opening credits and would gladly remind us she was right at the end.  Maria developed a passion for hockey in her later years and was a rabid and devoted fan of the Vegas Golden Knights. 


Maria had a real sweet tooth. She was famous for insisting that she couldn’t eat another bite of food because she was so full, yet somehow then managing to finish whatever dessert she got – as well as tasting everyone else’s that appealed to her. 


Most of all, what defined Maria was her family.  She adored all her grandchildren and great grandchildren and so loved seeing pictures of them all and hearing about their pursuits.  She gave her children a drive to be their best in all they did and to always put God and family before everything else.  We will miss her forever but know she is in Heaven catching up with everyone who went before her.  To quote the song Maria from West Side Story “All the beautiful sounds of the world in a single word… Maria, Maria, Maria…”


Maria will be laid to rest with her husband following a service at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City on Thursday, August 24 at 10:40 a.m.      

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