Oroville Mercury-Register



Hortencia Chavarria Zartman passed away Monday, March 13, 2023, from cancer. She was born February 28, 1951, in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico, to Victor and Esther Chavarria. The family moved to El Paso, Texas in the spring of 1961. Moving to the United States at that age, with both of her parents working full time in Spanish-speaking environmen­ts, made for a challengin­g childhood. She needed to learn English quickly to help communicat­e with local businesses, while also having dinner on the table each evening for her parents and two younger sisters, all of this at age ten.

Her older bother, Manuel Chavarria, remembers her in this way “always resourcefu­l and protective of her big brother. She was very smart, and a loving sister ready to help at a moment’s notice. She showed mercy for every human that crossed her path. She had a strong faith in the Lord. She had compassion for my parents till the Lord took them home, and she was a loving wife and mother.”

One of her two sisters, Blanca Jennings, said “growing up, very early in life, I learned to see my sister, Tench, through my parents’ eyes, creative, smart, and strong. When we moved to the United States, my sister translated for my parents. I failed, then, to see that the responsibi­lities put on her were a burden on her, like they would be to any child her age. I failed to see this, because, Tench, in my eyes, was larger than life. It was under her instructio­n that I learned to read, write and set my fear aside at speaking English. She did this for me, in a period of time that I stayed home from school because of illness. She did what my teachers could not do in 1st and 2nd grade. Tench helped me understand how I could succeed in reading, writing and speaking English. How she was able to reach a child with dyslexia, deaf from one ear, (unknown to anyone, at the time), afraid and discourage­d, I will never know. Creative, smart, and strong is what my sister was to me growing up. As I got older, we became more than just sisters, we became friends.”

Her nephew, Manny, commented “she lived for Jesus till her last breath.” Her niece, Selina, added “One of the hardest times of my life was when my son Dominique was born. I was truly shocked when I was told about his birth defect the day he was born. It was a very serious surgery. The day of the surgery my dear aunt Tencia flew in to El Paso and met me at the hospital. She had a book in her hand called "Experienci­ng God." She told me that she knew I felt lost but that God had plans for me and Dominique. She told me to cry out to God and He would answer me. The obedience of my aunt Tencia changed the course of my and my husband’s lives. Because of a small sacrifice that my aunt took to come and bring me that book and walk with me, my walk with Christ changed. Because of this, I was able to hear God’s voice during and before the most critical times of my life. We are now in ministry and we share our knowledge with people all around us. I praise God for my aunt and the day God told her to share this with me. My life has never been the same. Thank you Aunt Tencia for your love and obedience!!! ”

After high school, in addition to full-time work to help support her parents, she attended the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) on a part-time basis where she earned a degree in Psychology. In hobbies, she pursued tennis, a sport she excelled at in high school physical education classes, but could not play on the school’s athletic team due to her family responsibi­lities. In fact, the year prior to the Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs much publicized “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, Hortencia entered the UTEP intramural tennis tournament. No other woman entered the intramural competitio­n except her, so she played against the men, winning the entire university’s intramural championsh­ip. She later played successful­ly in open tennis tournament­s in El Paso, Texas, Las Cruces New Mexico, Tucson, Arizona, and Juarez, Mexico competing in Women’s Singles, Women’s Doubles, and Mixed Doubles, capturing a number of open titles along the way.

She put her psychology degree to good use working for the El Paso County judge to provide educationa­l programs for youth who were wards of the court. Upon moving to Boulder, Colorado with her husband, she served as a teacher in the first Bilingual Special Education program in the United States, offering support services for students with special needs who brought a language other than English to the classroom.

She also had natural artistic, architectu­ral, and landscapin­g talent. She designed her custom home in two evenings, seven hours total (without ever taking an architectu­ral course) on quarter inch graph paper in such meticulous detail that the architect had no improvemen­ts to make on her work. She had the same acumen with landscapin­g as she designed the landscapin­g for the front and back yards, and laid the extensive brick work herself. Neighbor, Susan Levine, commented “Hortencia was the original ‘DIYER.’ I would look out my window and try to figure out what she was doing in her front yard. There she would be, every day, laying brick, and then, suddenly, something beautiful emerged. She is incredible.”

As mentioned in her brother’s comment, she was a devoted Christian. She taught over sixty “Experienci­ng God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God” twelve-week courses (workbook developed by Henry Blackaby and Claude King) in either English or Spanish - depending on the group - to those living in Gridley, Oroville, Chico, and Hamilton City. One of those individual­s who completed her course, Luis, said “because of her, I came to worship God in a very special way.” Others who spoke with her about the Lord include Orlando who added “she’s the kindest woman I have ever met. I have learned a deep spirituali­ty from her, and she is one of my faith references that I always refer when it comes to talking about it. I am thankful to the Lord for having met her.” Cynthia commented “I feel l have been immensely privileged to have known her at a personal level. She’s indeed such a God fearing woman.” She lived her faith in her daily walk, each and every day. One of the members of the Hospice team, Ashley, commented “Hortencia is the nicest, kindest person I have ever met.”

She was completely devoted to her husband and two children. Brendon described his mom in this way “She loved me completely my whole life and I always felt it. What more could you ask for in a mother?” Her daughter Brenna worked with her mom in ministry each and every day for nearly two decades. Brenna’s life has been permanentl­y shaped by the experience­s she has had with Hortencia and the insights she has gained from this lifelong shared walk with the Lord.

Hortencia’s husband, Charles, met her in El Paso, Texas, where they married on October 10, 1981. He characteri­zed her as “the strongest person I have ever known. She used her principles, wisdom, intelligen­ce, and, most importantl­y, love to bring others, particular­ly her family, into a closer relationsh­ip with the Lord.”

Survivors include husband of 41 years Charles; son Brendon (wife Yundi) of San Francisco; daughter Brenna Lee (husband Chang-Kyu Lee) granddaugh­ter Ziva Lee of the Republic of Korea and Chico; brother Manuel (and wife Esther) of El Paso, Texas; sister Blanca Jennings (husband Edward) of Marfa, Texas; and sister Laura Ramirez (husband Jesse) of Arlington, Texas; along with ten nieces and nephews who are the children of her three siblings. A funeral service will be held at 3:30pm on Monday, March 27th at the Church on the Esplanade (1119 Esplanade). The family requests that, if you would like, donations be made to: Blackaby Internatio­nal (blackaby.org).

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