Carmen Ybarra Portillo
1931 - 2020
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Carmen Ybarra Portillo

On April 14th, our mother, Carmen Ybarra Portillo, 88, was called home to begin her fifth day with our loving God in heaven. Taken due to natural causes, Carmen was the youngest child born to Bernardo and Paula Ybarra in Hayden, Arizona. Named for the feast day on which she was born, Carmen lived a long and fruitful life in service to all who knew her as a teacher, administrator, parishioner, wife, aunt, sister, nana, mother and friend.

Carmen is survived by two children, Frances Portillo (James Mehrens) and David Portillo (Julie), two granddaughters Amanda Takacs (Kevin) and Molly Portillo and her dear friend and companion, Mike Caviasca. Six nieces and nephews along with numerous great-nieces and nephews also survive. Her parents and three sisters, Dr. Frances Y Amabisca, Mary Y. Garcia and Elidia Y Herrera, precede her in death.

A Sun Devil at heart (Beat The U!), she spent four happy years as an undergraduate in Tempe. Carmen earned her BA in Education from then Arizona State College, returning later to ASU earning her Masters in Special Education and endorsements in Bilingual/ESL Adult Education. She loved school and being in school. Carmen taught and mentored for 50 years in a variety of subjects and directing Head Start programs. School districts Carmen taught in were Litchfield Park, Wilcox, San Simon, Cashion, Wilson and Glendale. Twenty-two years into her teaching profession, Carmen found a deeper calling in the Special Education field. Carmen was one of Arizona's first certified Bilingual/ESL Special Education teachers. After 18 more years, Carmen looked to retire but her beloved Arizona State University had other plans. Carmen was asked to teach and inspire young teachers going into Special Education. Her dedication to teaching helped produce another generation of Bilingual Special Education teachers.

Carmen was a member of Delta Kappa Gamma International Society for Women Educators (50 plus years!), the National Education Association, Arizona Education Association and the National Association for Bilingual Education.

Carmen spent most of her life living in the Avondale/Goodyear area. She loved her family and taking care of her aging parents in a setting where everyone knew each other and helped each other. She enjoyed her strong Catholic community at St. John Vianney, which nurtured and allowed her faith to be strengthened. Her final calling to faith was making her Cursillo. Being a part of the Cursillo Movement was a blessing following her father in the 1960's and her son in the 2000's. It was a joy for Carmen to relish in the Catholic faith. De Colores!

In her later years, she moved to a retirement community in Phoenix where as she says, "I finally get to live in my own apartment!" She enjoyed her community life at Mountain Park where she looked forward to each day singing songs, playing games, riding the bus to church and ballgames, and sharing/relating to each others lives. "Miss Match" as she became known because of her dressing in perfectly matched outfits from head to toe, loved the staff at Mountain Park and the attention given to the residents!

At Mountain Park, she found a soul mate, Mike who cared for her, laughed with her, drank root beer with her, watching her Suns, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks (and Mike's Yankees and UConn WBB). He enjoyed her company and just made mom feel special. We cannot thank God enough for bringing Mike into her life.

Carmen's two children were her pride and joy. Raising Frances and David as a single mother, she put her life into being the best mother one could be. As one student once told a young Frances during a visit to her mother's class, "we were lucky because although she was their teacher, you have her as your mother." Her life of service touched many and was returned with much love and thanks.

Due to the COVID-19, services were held privately per the guidelines in place. We plan to celebrate our mother's life at a future date once it is possible.

In lieu of flowers, we invite you to support some causes dear to Carmen. A scholarship fund named for her sister, the Dr. Frances Y. Amabisca Scholarship for Avondale Elementary Schools and Andre House at

Arrangements entrusted to Holy Cross Catholic Funeral Home with more information listed on the Holy Cross website at

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Arizona Republic from Apr. 23 to Apr. 29, 2020.
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April 29, 2020
I took a class from Carmen many years ago at ASU, and thoroughly enjoyed it. She was a great teacher with a lot of passion! I also remember her enthusiasm for all the Arizona sports teams. :-) I am happy for her that she was able to experience and be so involved with the Cursillo. De Colores!
Mary Carla Flood
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