Helen Antoinette Lopez Peña, of San Diego, age 95, died Nov. 13 peacefully at home, surrounded by her loving family.
Helen was born and raised in San Juan Capistrano, California. At the time of her death, she was the oldest living native of San Juan Capistrano.
Helen was the third of five children born to Juanita Hunn and Arturo Lopez. All four of her siblings, Arthur, Claudine, Joseph and George, predeceased her.
Helen attended school at the San Juan Capistrano Mission. She started working at the age of thirteen selling pottery at the Mission. Helen was extremely proud of her hometown. She visited the Mission every year. Her childhood home is located in the historic Los Rios area of San Juan Capistrano.
Helen met her husband, Eugene Peña of San Diego, when she moved to San Diego for work. Eugene was a WWII and Korean War submarine veteran. They were married for 67 years before his death in 2011. They had five children – Richard, Gary (Lorie), Melanie (Mark), James (Silvia) and Gene Andrew. Richard predeceased her in 1981.
Helen had many jobs in her life. As a young woman, she worked as an assistant to a family in La Jolla and she was a waitress at many different restaurants including Ramona’s Kitchen in Old Town now known as La Piñata. Her favorite job was as a nurse’s aide for the retired nuns at Mercy Hospital.
Helen loved a good party, she loved music, she loved to dance, she cooked the best Mexican food (her homemade tortillas were famous!), but most of all she loved her family. She leaves behind her four children and eight grandchildren Gary Alan Peña, Dustin Peña, Amber Peña Hendrix, Brandon Peña, Maxwell Perry, Devin Clark, Jessica Peña and Richard Peña and one great grandchild, King Hendrix. She also leaves behind her two wonderful caregivers Guadalupe DeLeon and Mariaelena Ramos. There are no two finer people. They were our angels.
The family requests donations be sent in Helen’s memory to Mission Hospice, 2365 Northside Dr., Suite 100 San Diego, CA 92108 or to Meals on Wheels, 3555 India St. #A, San Diego, CA 92103.