November 15, 1926 ~ November 10, 2004
Eugenia Garcia, who was born Eugenia Rangel and grew up on St. Paul's West Side, was part of the popular Rangel sisters singing group in the 1940s. She died of pancreatic cancer Nov. 10 in California, within three weeks of being diagnosed with the disease. She was 77.
From her children, â€œShe was at peace when the end came. She expressed complete happiness and content with her life. Nothing else did she desire.â€ She was a strong woman who cherished her family and friends. She brought smiles and laughter to everyone around her. â€œWe have many, many, happy loving memories of mom, which we will cherish forever.â€
In 2001, the Great American Theatre paid tribute to the Rangel sisters with the show ''Los Rumbaleros,'' detailing their musical journey in St. Paul. The four sisters performed at the opening night and ''didn't miss a beat,'' said Ron Pelluso, theater artistic director.
Born in 1926 in Mexico, Garcia was barely a year old when her parents, Francisco and Crescencia Rangel, moved to St. Paul.
The Rangels created a little Mexico at home, teaching songs, music, poetry and dance to their children to connect them with their heritage.
Garcia turned out to be the most gifted of all, said her sister, Marie Moran, who is two years younger than Garcia. She had a great ear for music and played the piano, Moran said.
A niece, Rosa Gaona of Minneapolis, said her aunt's talents impressed a benefactor, who sponsored music lessons for all the sisters, and paid for her to go to St. Catherine's to study music after she graduated from Mechanic Arts High School in 1946. ''She was very active until the end,'' said Gaona.
But Garcia didn't finish college. She taught her siblings music while working as a typist. ''She was our inspiration,'' recalled Moran. ''She would teach us for hours.''
She even bought a saxophone for her then 17-year-old brother, Kiko, who started his own orchestra in the 1950s.
Juanita, Genevieve, Eugenia and Maria â€” performed as â€œThe Rangel Sistersâ€ and lead singers for an orchestra, â€œLos Rumbalerosâ€, in the 1940s. The sisters performed at community events and church, and acquired star status in the local Hispanic community.
''I loved their music. I can also vouch for hundreds and hundreds of other people who enjoyed it, too,'' said Ramiro Saucedo of Mendota Heights, a longtime community organizer of Mexican Americans in St. Paul.
The sisters toured small towns throughout Minnesota, winning accolades wherever they performed, said Juanita Moran, the eldest of the sisters. She said the group had an agent then, but didn't make a lot of money.
''Music was about connecting to the community,'' Garcia told the Pioneer Press of St. Paul three years ago.
A high school friend, Dolores Pillen of North St. Paul, remembered Garcia as outgoing and vivacious. She had a lot of admirers, something her father didn't like, Pillen said.
In 1954, she married Benjamin Garcia, who fell in love with her when he saw her dance, and the couple moved to California. For the most part, she worked as a secretary in Santa Monica at St. Anneâ€™s school, where she shared her musical and dancing talents with the kids.
She retired in the 1990s, and after her husband's death in 1994 joined LA South Towns Show Chorus, affiliated with Sweet Adelines of the South Bay, a group dedicated to advancing music. â€œOne of the happiest people I ever met,â€ said the chorus director. â€œWeâ€™ll miss our Genie.â€
Garcia is survived by daughters and sons, Lisa Garcia of Redondo Beach; Juanita (Greg) Merrill of Las Vegas; Rose Garcia of Escondido; Frank Garcia of Henderson; Julie Garcia of Redondo Beach; Mario Garcia of Fairfield; and Anita (Joe) Gates of Upland; Grandkids, Jacob Gardner, Nathan Gardner, Andrew Garcia of Redondo Beach; and sisters Juanita Moran of Oakdale; Maria Moran of North St. Paul; Genevieve Rangel of St. Paul; Rachel Kelly of St. Paul; and brothers Francisco ''Kiko'' Rangel of St. Paul and Augustine Rangel of Minneapolis.
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