Reyes Juanita Florez Martinez


(Feb. 1, 2006)

Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Lovell Wednesday, Feb. 8 for Reyes Juanita Florez Martinez, 61, who died Wednesday, Feb. 1 surrounded by her family.

She was born Jan. 6, 1945, in Lovell to Guadalupe and Charles D. Flores. Juanita struggled even before her birth, her mother nearly losing her during pregnancy. Her entire life was presented as one trial of faith after another, and the grace, dignity and courage with which she carried each cross is an example for others to follow.

Her mother and grandparents raised her, and when she was 12 years old, her mother was tragically killed by a drunk driver, leaving her grandparents to raise five children. She graduated from Lovell High School in 1963, and in 1965, she married her life-long friend, Jesse Martinez. During the first years of their marriage, they lived all around Wyoming with Jesse working construction. In 1967, Jesse took a job with Georgia Pacific, and the young couple moved back home to hopefully begin a family. After suffering through the loss of many miscarriages, one which threatened her life, they were blessed on Nov. 24, 1971 with the arrival of their daughter, Jennifer, and again on Jan. 22, 1976, with the premature birth of their son, Matthew.

Juanita stayed at home to raise her family, demonstrating the richest love of motherhood. She began volunteering at the Lovell Elementary School when Jennifer went to kindergarten. Within two years, she was substituting as a teacher’s aide, and in 1982 she went to work full-time as mainly a first grade teacher’s aide. Being around children and doing for others was her life-long passion.

In April of 2001, she was honored by the Wyoming Education Association with the WEA Friend of Education Award after having been nominated by the Lovell Education Association. She loved working with the teachers, staff and children, especially taking the first graders under her wing.

She was active in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, the Wyoming Democratic Party and Red Hat Society. She served as an election judge and loved to volunteer in her grandchildren’s classes, as well as earn “frequent flyer miles” at the Lovell Branch Library. Even when she could not get to the library on her own, the librarians were angels about having piles of books to send home with Jesse.

In May of 1998, Juanita underwent quadruple bypass surgery and spent the next three months healing and fighting sternal infection. Determination drove her to return to work in September of that year, but it would be her last year working. A rare nerve neuropathy, for which she took part in a Mayo Clinic study, made it impossible for her to continue.

This was difficult for her to accept, but she battled on. The limitations of being in a wheelchair sometimes saddened her, but she continued to be a vibrant, person who didn’t stop and always viewed things positively. Nothing gave Juanita more joy than spending time with family and friends, especially her grandchildren, and taking road trips with Jen and “the boys.” Just last summer she finally got to see the ocean, Gulf of Mexico and South Padre Island. On Friday, the day before her tragic turn of events, she and Jennifer were talking about their next big road trip on their way to Cheyenne. God had a much greater destination for her.

Juanita had a Red Hat Society handbag that said, “Live, Laugh, Love and Accessorize.” She did exactly that, accessorizing her life not with jewels and materials, but with her heart and gifts of love — the accessories that matter most. She taught her family the importance of appreciating life, celebrating every single day.

Survivors include her loving husband of nearly 41 years, Jesse Martinez, grandsons Nicanor S.D. Martinez and Matthew M. Martinez and brother Charles Florez Jr., all of the family home; daughter Jennifer R. Martinez-Sessions, son Matthew M. Martinez, grandchildren Robert Bischoff Sessions, Alejandro F. Martinez, Juanita M. Martinez and Thallen Jesse Sessions, all of Lovell; aunt Josie Florez of Casper; uncle Manuel Ramirez of Worland; sisters Chencha Moreno (Manuel) of Las Vegas, Nev., Tresa Manning of Mesa, Ariz., Gloria Haggerty, Linda Jaurequi and Marlene Ricks of Idaho Falls, Idaho; Delores Anderson (Morrie) of Minneapolis, Minn., Charlotte Hutchinson (Mike) of Sparks, Nev.; brothers Gerald Frank Florez of Riverton, Ernest Florez (Marlene) of Lovell, Charles Flores of Castro Valley, Calif., Bobby Flores (Amber) of Sheridan and Albert Flores-Castillon (Christy) of Midville, Utah.

She was preceded in death by her parents; infant sister Sylvia, infant sister Jenny Lou, infant brother David Joe, brother Joseph Felix Padilla, brother Billy Flores and brothers-in-law, John Martinez and Art Martinez.