Elizabeth Riego was 72 years old when she peacefully passed away on September 16th, 2020 while surrounded by her family whom she loved so dearly.
Elizabeth was born on January 28th, 1948 in Olongapo City, Philippines to Amadeo and Zenaida Penaflorida.
Even at an early age, she was an extraordinarily hard-worker. Her motivation was her siblings. She became like a second mother to her late brother Abraham, her brother Amadeo J.R. and her two younger sisters Rebecca and Jovilu.
After graduating from Olongapo City National High School, she began her nursing studies at Arelano University. Then in walked the love of her life: Wilfredo Riego who swept her off her feet and out of nursing school. They married soon after and even sooner had their first son, Errol, in 1972. A year later, they welcomed their second son, Eric. And in 1978, they had their only daughter, Yvette.
Alongside her family, Elizabeth was fortunate enough to immigrate from the Philippines to the United States in the summer of 1982. She, of course, brought along her hard-working spirit with her across the sea and didn’t wait long to find her first job in the U.S. She began working for Hilton hotel where she dedicated herself for 32 years eventually receiving an award for Employee of the Year. Which was a well-deserved award especially considering the fact that she took public transportation and BART five days a week from Hayward to San Francisco without ever calling in sick or complaining.
Elizabeth truly loved her job which showed through to the quality of her work and granted her the name “superwoman” among those who knew her and worked with her. With such a rare mixture of perseverance and a genuine giving spirit, she of course never hesitated to help those around her: friends, family and strangers alike. She was so friendly and would give anyone the leopard shirt right off her back if they needed.
Words cannot begin to describe her fondness and talent for cooking. It’s hard to know what was greater: her love for cooking or her love of seeing the reactions of those who enjoyed her food. Some of her most loved dishes were her spaghetti, cassava dessert and her most popular: chicken curry. The list can go on and on but the space on this pamphlet is only so long.
But it was known: whenever there was an occasion of any kind, she would jump at the opportunity to cook and would always make sure there was enough to feed a small army. That was her style. All she wanted was to provide for as many people as possible. That is what made her truly happy.
As persevering as Elizabeth was, she also knew how to balance work and play. She frequented Bay Meadows where she met some of her best friends Tito, Aurora and Henry. Some of her favorite memories were at that race track alongside her husband Willie, son Errol and best friends. Although she enjoyed Disneyland, she considered the “happiest place on earth” to be Cache Creek. She also hosted countless, notorious parties in the house that she and Willie made a home. A home that was open to everyone at any time.
Although Elizabeth retired in 2014, she kept busy and never stopped moving. Between the love for her grandkids, cooking and shopping, it was impossible for her to keep still. Although, she rarely ever shopped for herself. Giving gifts to her loved ones is something that truly made her smile. The things that brought her the most joy were the things that money could never buy. And to her, that meant her family. Her children and their spouses Lorraine, Michelle and Sal. Her grandchildren Tiffany, Elijah, Nico, Junior, Ava, Taya, Jayden and Zeke. Her sisters Rebecca and Jovilu. Her sister-in-law Maria. Her friends Monica, Marcelo, Beth, Jay and Lisa.
She adored spending time with these people she loved so much whether it was as simple as hanging out, shopping, eating good food or as crazy as screaming at the tv while watching her favorite sports teams. Yes, as if she wasn’t cool enough already, she loved sports. Especially the Golden State Warriors. Her loud, passionate commentating was just as entertaining as the games.
In her more recent years, after taking her two grandkids to school, she spent a lot of her time at Chill Tea and Coffee. She would sit and enjoy a drink while chatting with customers who she quickly built genuine relationships with. She was well loved by every person she met there.
To love Elizabeth was as easy as loving one of her warm, home cooked meals. So much joy, comfort and tenderness in a small package.
She was a powerful, loving woman and it is such a blessing and an honor to have had her in our lives. Although she will be missed dearly, the love she graced us with will forever live on within our hearts and we’ll take it wherever we go.
We can take comfort in knowing that she is reunited with her husband Willie and all her loved ones in heaven. Right now, I’m in a different place. And though we seem apart, I’m closer than I ever was. I’m there inside your heart.
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