Lila Eloisa Maestas Espinoza
With the deepest gratitude and hearts warmed by cherished memories, the family of Lila Eloisa Maestas Espinoza announces that she peacefully and gracefully passed away at her home in Monte Vista, Colo., with loved ones at her side. She was 97.
Lila was born at her family’s homestead west of La Jara, near the Alamosa River, on Feb. 5, 1926, the fourth child of Patrocina Maria Martinez (1902-1985) and WWI veteran Juan Francisco Maestas (1892-1931). After her father’s death, her mother and stepfather, Joseph Emerhildo Chavez, raised her. Lila's maternal lineage traces historically through the San Luis Valley, northern New Mexico, Mexico, Spain, France, and to Charlemagne, the King of the Franks and Lombards in 8th century Europe, connecting her to an enduring history of resilience and fortitude. As a Hispano, she embodied the San Luis Valley’s lasting spirit and heritage, weaving together a life filled with joy, strength, and love.
As a youth in Romeo, Colo., Lila excelled as a scholar, athlete, and school spirit champion. She stood out as the valedictorian of her 1944 graduating class at Romeo High, defying expectations and loving basketball despite her petite frame. She also found joy in the thrill of watching boxing matches and listening to music. Her school-time memories included riding the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad to compete in basketball games against rivals in Chama, N.M. Throughout her early years, she showed strong determination and an abundance of energy, hinting at the long and fulfilling life she would go on to enjoy.
In 1949, Lila and her admirer, Arturo Anastacio “Tato” Espinoza of Espinoza, Colo., eloped to the romantic city of Santa Fe. Their 58-year marriage, until Tato’s passing in 2007, stood as a testament to the enduring power of mutual devotion, perseverance, and love of family. Lila’s caring nature shone through their relationship, and her admiration for Tato endured until her passing. Together, they raised nine children, and Lila gracefully filled her motherly journey with nurturing and steadfast dedication, instilling empathy, patience, kindness, and love in her children’s spirits.
Lila’s ambition and passion for food launched her early career as a cook and, soon after, a restaurateur. A culinary virtuoso, she skillfully crafted both conventional and unique cuisines, gaining renown for her Mexican dishes and savory green chile. She loved to bake and was dedicated to the daily craft of making tortillas. From 1952 to 1972, she and Tato owned and operated Romeo Lunch, a restaurant and bar in Romeo, Colo. There, Lila welcomed throngs of devoted patrons who enjoyed her blue-plate specials, often paired with a refreshing Coors beer.
In 1973, she joined the historic Monte Villa Inn kitchen staff in Monte Vista, continuing to delight diners with her creations for decades. Seemingly tireless, Lila and Tato were also entrepreneurs, and together, they owned and operated a television and electronics business, a lettuce farm, and a trucking company that transported daily news and film from Denver to Cortez, Colo., carrying The Denver Post, The Rocky Mountain News, and big-screen films to local movie theaters.
Lila’s home kitchen was a haven of warmth and tempting aromas. Whether it was her first-rate green chile, enchiladas, or cinnamon rolls, her love of cooking for others extended to friends and family. She frequently prepared four or five different plates a meal, catering to her children’s unique preferences. Her warm hospitality welcomed guests with her open heart and homemade tortilla, making each one feel truly special.
Moreover, Lila’s zest for life was matched only by her optimism, Christianity, and love of song. At gatherings, she often infused humor, making each moment brighter. Countless conversations with her included her playful question, “Ask me where I was born,” which she would answer with a lively verse from Roy Acuff's Freight Train Blues. Her spirited voice singing, “I was born in Dixie in a boomer’s shack in a little ol’ shanty by the railroad track,” lifting hearts and sharing smiles, making burdens lighter.
As the years advanced, Lila remained healthy and resilient. She recovered from a tough fall, defeated Covid, and persisted until the end when natural causes relinquished her vigor. She was preceded in death by her husband, Tato, in 2007; her son Paul Dean “Dennis” Espinoza, in 2023; her daughter-in-law, Janice Espinoza in 2015; three grandchildren (Roderick Cordova in 1976, Angelina Earls in 1993, and Jeshua Espinoza in 2020); four brothers, (Raymond Meastas, Miguel “Mike” Maestas, Anselmo “Elmo” Maestas, and Anthony Chavez); and her sister (Connie Gonzales).
She leaves behind a vibrant family stretching across generations: Roberta “Betty” Knight of San Antonio, Texas; Susan Canada (Wayne) of Lakewood, Colo.; Benjamin Espinoza (Cathy) of Vacaville, Calif.; Angelo Espinoza (Sheila) of Phoenix, Ariz.; Michael Espinoza (Caroline) of Monte Vista, Colo.; Noah Espinoza of Monte Vista, Colo.; Patricia Szall of Sandy Springs, Ga.; Stephanie Chandler of Mosca, Colo.; and Arthur A. Espinoza, Jr. (Daniel DeHaan) of West Hollywood, Calif. Additionally, her 32 grandchildren, 44 great-grandchildren, and 13 great-great-grandchildren survive her, as does Her brother Bert Chavez, of South Jordan, Utah.
Lila’s zest for life was perfectly matched by her Christian faith and love of singing. She beamed joy, often playfully singing the many tunes in her repertoire. Her optimism lifted hearts, and her unwavering faith as a Jehovah's Witness shaped her life's purpose. She drew strength and solace in her spirituality, finding comfort in daily prayer and bible study. With grace and humility, she shared her convictions, and her faith served as a guiding light, inspiring others on their spiritual journeys with a Christ-like approach.
In honor of Lila's life and her impact on all who knew her, two gatherings will celebrate her memory. A Bible-based talk providing comfort and hope will be delivered at the Monte Vista Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah's Witnesses on Monday, Sept. 4, at 1 p.m. All are invited and welcome to attend. On Friday, Sept. 8, at 1 p.m. at Ski-Hi Complex Outcalt Conference Center in Monte Vista, Lila's children will host a Celebration of Life, providing an opportunity for all friends and loved ones, irrespective of faith, to join together in remembrance and share a meal and stories that reflect the essence of Lila's life. These two gatherings will stand as a testament to the diverse ways in which Lila touched the lives of those around her.
Rogers Family Mortuary is in care of the arrangements. To leave online condolences, remembrances, or words of support for Lila’s family, please visit www.RogersFunerals.com.