Paulina Santiago; pioneer family’s matriarch

ROCHESTER — Paulina Santiago, the matriarch of one of the Latino community’s pioneer families, died Aug. 30, 2010. She was 88 years old.

During her funeral held Sept. 2, 2010, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, family members said that her Catholic faith was the foundation of her entire life.

"Mi madre fue una mujer luchadora," said her oldest daughter Flor-María Martínez. "Fue una mujer de fe que con su ejemplo guio nuestros caminos."

Her daughter, Idalia Chang, recounted how her life was saved by her mother’s prayers to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. After Chang had a severe asthma attack at age 6, her doctor told Santiago there was nothing more he could do. Santiago replied that only God had the last word and took Chang home and prayed the whole night. She woke up completely healed the next day and did not suffer from asthma again until she was in her late 20s, Chang remarked.

"It was truly a miracle," she said.

A native of Guayama, Puerto Rico, Santiago and her husband of 54 years, Geronimo Santiago, came to Rochester in the 1960s to find a better life for their children, their daughters said. In Rochester, her brother, Julio Vázquez Sr., helped her find work at the former Thompson Products company. Later, she worked at the Hotel Marriott and the Nor Lock Nursing Home.

If anyone needed help, Santiago would be there and would give tirelessly, Martínez said.

"If someone was ill, they came to her," Chang said. "She fought like a trooper to get her children what they felt they deserved: a better life."

In addition to Chang and her husband, Allen, and Martínez and her husband, Felix, Santiago is survived by daughters and sons-in-law, Maria and Luis Pacheco, Irma and Jose LaBoy, Elba and Steven Williamson, and Haydeé Santiago; sons and daughters-in-law, Israel and Carmen Santiago, Juan "Luis" and Gloria Pacheco; 33 grandchildren, three sisters, and a brother.

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