Wilma Iris Tafoya

wilma tafoya

July 21, 1931 ~ October 9, 2023

Born in: Richmond, California
Resided in: Manhattan Beach, California

Wilma Tafoya passed away peacefully at home on Monday, October 9, 2023, at the age of 92.  She was surrounded by her family.

Wilma Iris Conley was born on July 21, 1931, in Richmond, California.  She enjoyed riding and had her own horse for a time when she was young.  She was very close to her father, but he died unexpectedly when she was 12.  She excelled at school, graduating from Richmond Union High School in 1949.  She was the first and only member of her family to go to college, attending the University of California at Berkeley and working two jobs to pay her way through school. She also spent a year studying in Mexico City.

While at Berkeley, she met Orlando Tafoya, whom she married after she obtained her teaching credential.  After they married, Wilma and Orlando, both self-avowed Northern Californians, moved to Manhattan Beach  “just for a year or so” to start their lives together.  They never left.  She started teaching at El Segundo High School, where she taught full time until she had her first child.

Wilma and Orlando settled in a home on Poinsettia Avenue and raised four kids: Matthew, Meg, Juli and Michele.  When she was awarded the South Bay Mother of the Year award in 2010, Wilma said of raising her kids: “I can’t think of a time, no matter how hard it was, that it wasn’t fun.”  Holidays were particularly fun for her, and she turned them into special events for family, friends and neighbors with food, decorations, and special activities.  She loved to sew and created many wonderful outfits for her girls, especially Easter dresses, which she made every year until they were teenagers.

Active in the community, Wilma was a member of the local Sandpipers, League of Women Voters, Soroptimists, and American Association of University Women.  Her kids attended Grandview Elementary School, where she was involved with the PTA.  She was integral in establishing the Grandview Fiesta, a festival of games and food which became an annual event for many years.  American Martyrs Church was another organization where she served and spent one term as the parish President.  She also was a Girl Scout Leader for her girls’ troop.

Once her kids were all in school, Wilma went back to teaching, substituting in English, Spanish and math at Aviation and Mira Costa High Schools. She occasionally found herself substituting in one of her own kid’s classrooms, sometimes to their chagrin. She eventually went back to full-time teaching at Mira Costa, where she taught until she retired in 1992.  Though she was strict, many students loved her and she often had former students stop her to let her know how much they learned in her classes.

Wilma loved to socialize, and she regularly hosted wonderful parties for family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.  Her layered bean dip was legendary, as was the Casino Night New Year’s Eve party she and Orlando hosted annually for a number of years.  She also had a bridge group that she played with regularly for decades.  She loved books and flowers and surrounded herself with both.

Wilma was preceded in death by her husband, Orlando, her brother Rick, and her sister Sherryl.  She is survived by her four children and her grandchildren Mia, Ian, Daniel, Tyler and Olivia.  She was beloved by numerous nieces, nephews and neighbors.  Though she will be greatly missed, her radiant smile and infectious laugh will be remembered by all who knew her.  A celebration of her life will be held in February 2024.  In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to The Smile Network, a non-profit humanitarian organization Wilma loved to support.

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Memories Timeline


  1. candle 1We will always miss you, Mom, but know you are at peace and reunited with Dad and all your family and friends. Thank you for being an inspiration to me and so many others. Your love and warmth will be remembered always.

  2. candle 4Mom, I miss you more each day. I have been busy, but in my quiet moments, I think of you and know that you are with dad again, plus all our family who have gone before. In that way, I envy you. We will take good care of each other and live our lives knowing you and dad are watching over us. I love you a “bushel and a peck”!

  3. candle 8Wilma Tafoya was one in a million. Her gentle spirit but forceful approach to what was meaningful and important to her resonated throughout her life. She always had a beautiful smile and her laugh brought joy to all. I was blessed to have taught with her, laughed with her, hugged her when Orlando passed and celebrated with her at her 90th fiesta . She was beautiful inside and out. My condolences to all of her wonderful children and grandchildren. You were blessed to have her as your mom and grandmother. I was blessed to have had her as a friend and colleague. Her smile will live on in my heart. My sincere condolences, Barbara Alexander

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