Natalie Fernandez raised four kids, went back to work and enabled Coach Fernandez to accomplish many feats.
Editor’s note: We recently mourned the passing of Natalie Fernandez’s Dr. Les “Coach Fernandez’s wife. This eulogy was read at her funeral. It was written by Elaine Ostowski, a former AT&T colleague of Natlaie, the Fernandez familiy and close her friend since the 80’s…it captures the essense of the woman.
Natalie was born in 1929 and she used to joke that the world had enough problems that year, but here attitude was, “Nevertheless, here I come!” She did not have the easiest time growing up on the lower east side of New York during that time but she showed, at a very young age, that she had the fortitude, courage, common sense and flexibility to overcome anything.
As an adult she made excellent decisions – the most important of which was who she chose to marry. With Les (Les “Coach” Fernandez) she achieved her ultimate goal – becoming a mother. And judging from how her children and grandchildren turned out, its safe to say that she and Les did one incredibly, remarkable job!
Their home was filled with love and laughter and there was no line drawn between family and friends in the Fernandez household. On holidays and special occasions friends were considered family. I’ll always be grateful that I was privileged to be “adopted” by this family. And Richie recorded it all, every Christmas (although I’m not really sure there was any film in the camera, because I never saw any movies).
Although motherhood was Natalie’s great mission in life, mothers also teach and I looked as Natalie as my teacher, my mentor, my advisor and my friend. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to thank her last week for all she had done for me in my life. I told her I would never forget her words or advice. She asked me to tell her children what I had told her – so here goes.
There wasn’t one important decision about my life, whether it was work, health, family, finances, etc. that I didn’t say, “I’ve got to run this by Natalie.” It’s not that she was incredibly knowledgeable and practical, which she was, she was also very wise and her understanding of human nature was remarkable. I suspect that I’m not the only one who feels this way. How many of you here have said many times in your life, “I have to run this by Natalie.”
I told her last week, that like the ripples in a pond that go far beyond our view, she has helped many whom she never knew. For example, when I was teaching Life Management skills for adults, there was a section on parenting about which I knew nothing. So, of course, who better to teach me about parenting than the expert?
I took everything she said in shorthand and gave her entire message to hundreds of students each year for 15 years. I told her that every year students would say to me, “I’m talking to my children differently and I see an actual change for the better in their behavior.” “I never knew how important it was to balance and discipline.” “My whole family has benefited from this course.” Her face lit up and she looked so pleased and joyful when she heard this.
As I told Natalie, I will always be grateful for her presence in my life. It has made all the difference. I’m sure all who knew her feel this way. She taught us how to live better. She taught us how to love more. She taught us how to laugh often. And finally, she taught us how to die with grace and dignity.
So with a sense of deep love and gratitude for her life, and for God bringing her into ours, as we take here to rest today we pray:
Dear Heavenly Father up above; surround Natalie with Your love. And as she clasps her beloved Les’ hand, please bring them together again, into the Promised Land. Amen
by Elaine Ostowski
Read Devra Hall Levy’s Final Farewell to Coach here