Thermal, CA - Gloria Arias, 83, passed away peacefully at her home in Thermal, CA on May 21, 2021. She was born on January 19, 1938 in Brawley, CA, beloved daughter of Optaciano and Lucy Meraz. Gloria arrived in the Coachella Valley at the age of 10 years when her father secured a job grading the flood plain around the Salton Sea area. She attended Coachella Elementary School, now Palm View School, and graduated from Coachella Valley High School where she met her late husband of 58 years, Onesimo (Onie) Arias Jr. She is survived by her four children; Lawrence Arias (Autumn), Ernest Arias (Rosa), Juliet De Lara (Juan) and Rebecca Ann Gonzalez (Juan); ten grandchildren, Melina, Agustin, Juan Jr., Adrian, Gabriela, Ariel, Gabriel, Daniel, Joseph and Breanna; and six great-grandchildren. She also leaves behind her sister Martha Rios (John) and brother Ralph Meraz; she was preceded in death by her older brother, Optaciano Meraz Jr. (Esther).
Gloria worked for the Coachella Valley Unified School District for 31 years. Her career at CVUSD started in 1963 as an aide in the Head Start program at John Kelley Elementary School. Her dedication and hard work led to a secretarial position at John Kelley where she was school secretary from 1965 to 1970. She left her career in the school district to become a stay-at-home mom after the birth of her daughter Rebecca, returning to CVUSD in 1975 to work at Westside, Valley View and John Kelley schools as a service aide.
In 1978 she transferred to Oasis Elementary School where she worked until her retirement in 1999. When Gloria spoke about her work at Oasis School you quickly recognized that it was more than a job, she spoke passionately about her Oasis families as "my people." Gloria set the example of outreach and service to the community. Gloria was her own individual resource center, collecting clothing, food and anything that could be of help to families in need in the lower Coachella Valley. When organizations had items for donation they would contact Gloria because she knew the community and their needs. She cared not only for her students but also their families. Gloria would provide transportation for students as well as some of the parents to doctor and dental appointments. Upon her retirement Gloria sent a special message to her Oasis community, "I would like to thank the parents of the community, I didn't teach them anything, they taught me. They shared what little they had with me and welcomed me into their homes and into their families."
Together with her beloved husband Onie, Gloria helped to maintain one of the few remaining pioneer farms in the lower Valley that continues production of food crops and where generations of family continue to be raised. She endured the hardships, failures and successes of the small farmer while in the midst of change and tremendous growth in the Valley. Though in deteriorating health, Gloria insisted on remaining in her home in Thermal. Gloria's family is especially grateful for the love, care, and companionship provided her in her final years by Amanda Floreano (My Mandy), Eunicia Perez (Paloma), Wendy Anzueto, Mayte Obeso-Galindo and Robin Bierria.
Visitation will be held on Sunday, June 6, 2021, from 4 to 7 PM at Forest Lawn in Coachella to include Recitation of the Rosary at 5:00 PM. Due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions indoor attendance is limited to 75 people, an outdoor seating area will be available. A Funeral Mass will be offered at Our Lady of Soledad Church in Coachella at 10:00 AM on Monday, June 7, 2021, followed by graveside services at 11:30 AM at the Coachella Cemetery.
Mom enjoyed bingo games with her friends at the Thermal Senior Center. She would often ask for spare nickels and dimes on the way to the Center and though she bragged about winning, she would never pay them back. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to local senior and community centers.
Published by The Desert Sun from May 28 to Jun. 4, 2021.