CHICAGO — Guadalupe "Tita" Chavez was supposed to be enjoying a night out.
April 30 was date night for Tita, 42, who dedicated long hours to her children and newborn grandson, her nursing career and her studies. She worked hard to provide an example to her family, said her daughter-in-law, Jalissa Martinez.
But as Tita walked across a Garfield Ridge street, a man hit her with his car and drove off, police said. Tita was pronounced dead later that night. The man police said was driving faces charges of reckless homicide and driving under the influence of alcohol.
Thinking of Tita now, Jalissa said there are moments when she's sad.
Mostly, though, Jalissa remembers her mother-in-law and smiles, she said: There are so many good memories.
“This is why you shouldn’t drink and drive. Now we don’t have somebody who had a lot going for herself. A lot,” Jalissa said. “She didn't want to die. She loved living life.”
'She Wanted To Show Her Kids An Example'
Born in Mexico, Tita was raised by her grandmother, Jalissa said. She worked and wasn't sent to school.
Tita "starved a lot," Jalissa said. "She didn't have anything."
Tita moved to Chicago when she was 16, staying with her family. She got married and had a son, Damian, now 21, and a daughter, Brizaira, called "Breezy," 14. Breezy and Tita were "best friends" who told each other everything and even did each other's makeup, Jalissa said.
Though dedicated to her children, Tita was also focused on her work and setting a good example for her family, Jalissa said. She got her GED at 30 and became a nurse.
Guadalupe "Tita" Chavez moved to Chicago after a hard life in Mexico, her family said. She became a nurse while raising two kids. Tita was killed when a driver hit her and drove off, police said. [Facebook/Tita Chavez]
When her husband was deported and urged Tita to join him in Mexico, she refused, Jalissa said. She wanted to be a nurse and take care of her children in Chicago, Jalissa said.
“She wanted to become something higher than what she was,” Jalissa said.
Tita continued taking nursing classes and saved up enough money to buy a home in Cicero. At work, she took care of terminally ill patients, putting in 70 to 80 hours per week, Jalissa said.
"She always talked about her job. She talked about how much she loved her patients," Jalissa said. "She loved her patients. That was her everything.
"She wanted to show her kids an example, and her family, too."
'It's Not a Dream. It's Real'
This October, Damian and Jalissa had a son, Damian Jr. Tita "adored" the baby, Jalissa said. Tita bought food, diapers and clothes for him. She posted photos and videos of her grandson to Facebook, calling him "Papi."
"My whole mood changes when I see him," Tita wrote in early April.
Another post, from right before Christmas, said, "In love with my little papi" and was accompanied by a half-dozen photos of the baby.
Besides celebrating her first grandchild, Tita was taking classes and training to expand her role as a nurse, Jalissa said.
"She was working with people who couldn't walk, talk ... had to be fed through a tube," Jalissa said. "She'd wake up at 5 in the morning, go with her patients, come home, take a nap at night" and work again the next day.
“She always said that in life you can’t just sit around," Jalissa said. "Her career was important to her because she liked to help people, a lot. She liked to help anybody."
Tita's family isn't sure what they will do now: They don't know if they can afford to keep her home, they have funeral bills to pay and they're trying to figure out custody for Tita's 14-year-old daughter, Breezy, Jalissa said.
In the meantime, Breezy sleeps in her mother's room and they keep a photo of Tita surrounded by candles and roses. Though they miss Tita, they avoid crying at home, Jalissa said: They don't know if Tita's spirit is watching them, and if she is they don't want her to think they're sad.
“We’re just trying to not let it ruin us because we know that’s not what she wants,” Jalissa said. “We’re depressed. Honestly, we’re all depressed. We wake up and we say to ourselves, 'It’s not a dream. It’s real.'"
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