Eugenia
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, “She was at peace when the end came. She expressed complete happiness and content with her life. Nothing else did she desire.” She was a strong woman who cherished her family and friends. She brought smiles and laughter to everyone around her. “We have many, many, happy loving memories of mom, which we will cherish forever.” 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 — performed as “The Rangel Sisters” and lead singers for an orchestra, “Los Rumbaleros”, 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. Anne’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. “One of the happiest people I ever met,” said the chorus director. “We’ll miss our Genie.” 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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  1. I have enjoyed singing with Genie for over five years in the LA South Towns Chorus! She was always smiling and happy, and loved to sing! Genie fell off the risers at our retreat a year or two ago, but she returned shortly to chorus, undaunted, with a cast and sling on her arm. She came to our holiday parties with beautiful costumes and jewelry; I especially loved seeing her in her colorfully embroidered Mexican blouse and skirt. I remember Genie when she presented her biography, telling the chorwas about singing and traveling with her sisters. She was a gentle and loving woman, who loved to laugh; I feel privileged to have known her and sung with her.

  2. Genie was a good friend and we traveled together to our sing-outs with the L.A Southtowns Chorus. She was always happy and fun to be with, I miss her so much. What a gracious lady! She spoke often about her family and the good times they had together, her family always came first. To her family I give my deepest sympathy, I\’m sure she is spreading happiness and joy in heaven right now.

  3. Tribute to Genie Garcia: On the 9th of February 1999, Genie Garcia called me on the phone. She had seen an advertisement in the Pennysaver magazine about a South Bay Womens Chorus. She came to visit our singing group the LA South Towns Show Chorus, a barbershop harmony chorus. She joined the chorus a month later, and has been singing with us ever since! This was a joyous time for us, and for her too, I believe. She loved singing and took part in all aspects of our chorus events. She went to all the chorus competitions, appeared in all our chorus shows, served on the social events commmittee, and worked on our chorus fundraisers. I remember her in one show number, where she dressed as a hippie and did a song and dance with two other members. It was very cute! I remember her at the Taco stand, our annual fundraiser, frying tortillas with a jaunty expertise. She always seemed to get a kick out of everything we did. She always had a big smile on her face. She was never tempermental, always pleasant and fun-loving. She seemed to have a serene nature and didn\’t get upset easily. One example of this trait was her reaction to an incident that occurred about four years ago at our chorus retreat; we chorus memebers “retreat” for a weekend to a nearby hotel and sing all weekend, to practice for the annual Sweet Adelines competition. After singing all day on Saturday, we had a social hour and played some games…and during one fairly active game involving balloons, Genie fell and injured her arm. We worried about her, but she made light of her injury, and stayed with us for the remainder of the weekend. On Monday, she went to her doctor – who told her she had broken her arm! What a trouper she was! We enjoyed hearing Genie\’s stories about her early days in Minnesota. She told us about the performances with her sisters and the other family memebers, and we enjoyed looking at the newspaper photos of that era. She was so proud when a play was produced about her family. We love Genie. She was a very special person, and we were privileged to know her. She will not be forgotten.

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