Maria Isabel Rivera Leal
Maria Isabel Rivera Leal
April 13, 1941 – April 13, 2016
It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to our beloved “Mari” who passed away Wednesday, April 13, 2016, on her 75th birthday, after a four-year battle with ALS. Mari leaves behind her husband, Gabriel, her daughter Gabriela and son in-law Mauricio and their children (Cristina and Fabricio), her son Carlos and daughter in-law Madelen and their children (Alessandro and Lucia), and her son Patricio.
Mari was born in Coronel, Chile, and was the eldest of five children. She had a wonderful childhood and grew up next to the ocean and close to nature. An intelligent and curious child, her family members doted on her and nurtured her passion for education and literature. She married Gabriel in 1960 and became an elementary school teacher.
After Chile’s military coup in 1973, Gabriel escaped to Argentina and brought Mari and the children over, eventually landing in Canada in September of 1975 to start a new chapter in their lives. The Riveras were one of the first Chilean families to arrive in Edmonton, and they pulled together with other families as they faced the many challenges of becoming new Canadians. Mari became an active member of the Chilean-Canadian community and was a teacher at Salvador Allende Spanish School, helping many kids to preserve their language and customs. After raising their children and eldest grandchildren, Mari and Gabriel retired and enjoyed splitting their time between Chile, Edmonton and Vancouver.
To meet Mari was to love Mari. She was a gentle, kind and patient soul. She loved cooking, reading, gardening and knitting, and took pleasure in all the simple things in life. She had a gift for telling stories, and enjoyed sharing her wisdom and knowledge with those around her. Her sweet, calm and soothing personality put everyone at ease, and her beautiful smile lit up a room. She had many adventures on family camping and hiking trips across BC and Alberta, and we shared many special moments with her in the outdoors. Mari will be greatly missed by family members and friends in both Canada and Chile.
Despite the hardship of being diagnosed with ALS, a terminal disease, Mari handled herself with strength, bravery and grace at every moment. Selfless until the very end, Mari consented to an autopsy to contribute to ALS research. Our family is very grateful to all the staff members at the ALS Society of Alberta for helping us through our ALS journey and allowing Mari to face the disease with support and dignity. We are also eternally grateful to her amazing caregiver, Sarah, who went above and beyond in her devotion to Mari, and cared for her lovingly every day. A special thank you to Dr. Kalra, Dr. Heule, Dr. Janice and their teams for all their support. Finally, we thank the palliative care nursing staff from Alberta Health Services, who helped us to care for Mari 24/7 in her last days so she could pass at home peacefully, and especially nurse practitioner Madeleine, who was by our side during Mari’s final moments.
In lieu of flowers, the family would greatly appreciate donations to the Edmonton Walk for ALS (June 11, 2016 at Hawrelak Park). Please visit http://walkforals.ca/find-a-walk/alberta and make a donation by searching for our family’s team, Mari’s Mighty Warriors.