Carmen Wolfinbarger

A cherished woman, Carmen Maud Delgado Wolfinbarger, passed from the Trinity community on August 12, 2019 surrounded with the love and prayers of all whose lives she touched. There was a time in Carmen’s life when she wondered if anyone could come to her aid. During her last years of life, she was amazed that so many cared for her, prayed for her and did for her. Her life of generosity, love and kindness was mirrored back to her. Carmen Wolfinbarger was born to Refugio and Maud Sanchez Delgado in Susanville CA on November 19, 1934 in the Potters Maternity Home. Carmen was the oldest of ten children. Her birth was followed by Lupe, Bob, Duke (Refugio, Jr.), Jess, Paul (William), Joe (Joseph), Maria, Toni (Antonia) and Gloria. When Carmen was growing up, there were eight children in the home. Carmen helped her mother with household chores and with her younger brothers and sisters, while her father worked in a lumber mill.    

Carmen’s parents met in Susanville. As a young man her father, Refugio, had obtained work with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company in 1924. The foreman who brought Refugio to the States had promised Refugio’s mother that when the work was completed he would return to her in Laguna Grande, Zacatecas Mexico. After fulfilling the promise, Refugio wished to return to Pennsylvania. Despite efforts, he ended up working on the railroad in northeastern California with his home base in Susanville. While walking in Susanville, he noticed Maud drawing water at a well. He stopped and asked for a drink of water. Later he asked her father if he could come calling. Following a formal courtship, Refugio and Maud married in 1931.

While growing up people frequently asked Carmen, “What are you?” She answered, “American.”  Even though she identified herself with her nationality, many people persisted in questioning her origin. Finally, one day, she answered “Apache” knowing most recognized this name. The questions stopped. To confirm her American identity, Carmen shared with few the story of her father’s migration to California, and that her mother was of the Maidu people in Lassen and Butte counties.

As she wished to be treated, Carmen acted toward others with an egalitarian attitude and demeanor. When she heard others express unkindness, prejudice or judgment, Carmen shared words of compassion and likely would find an opening to state, “He/She is God’s child, too” or “respect all, for God is in each one of us.”

Carmen was wise, gentle and kind. She was peaceful, even tranquil. Yet, amidst the sereneness she was resolute when she stood up for others or for a position. When she spoke with her quiet forcefulness, she and her words were remembered.

Steady and devoted was Carmen in her Catholic faith, and she was active in promoting unity among all Christian churches. She worked quietly on behalf of others, taught Catechism to youth, was a Trinity County leader of the Crusillo and joined prayer warriors from all faiths on behalf of individuals, the community and the nation. Among the bible verses Carmen memorized was Psalm 45-7: God is our refuge and our strength, and our ever present help in distress.

Carmen valued education. She graduated from Lassen Union High School in Susanville and Lassen Community College. On January 3 1954, Carmen married and in 1955 completed an Associate of Arts degree. Later as a single mother, she took courses at Shasta College and through California State University extended education, and eventually became a full-time librarian. Carmen chose to become a librarian because of a high school librarian who encouraged her and took time with her. Even though she had teachers she felt looked down on her and thought she would amount to nothing, she also enjoyed instruction from many outstanding teachers. From them, Carmen learned how valuing a person makes a difference in his/her life. Carmen worked as a teacher’s aide at Weaverville Elementary School and then as a librarian for 24 years until her retirement in 1999. During that time, she influenced many school children and those of all-ages who used the Trinity County Library.

During her work years, Carmen adapted to technology. She learned to type on a manual typewriter and adjusted to easy-to-press keys of a Selectric electric typewriter. In the 1980s places of work sent employees, like Carmen, to short training courses for personal computer (PC) use. She, and others working in that decade, integrated PCs into daily work and showed astuteness in PC use without benefit of a background in computer programming. While computers were touted as making workplaces and tracking of information simpler, Carmen was among those who remained unconvinced of simplicity, as she could see the complexities, and perhaps burden, of what was created with computer use.

Carmen credited her strong work ethic to her parents and grandparents. They worked and while growing up she worked alongside them. She noticed their diligent work and honesty earned them respect from others. At one conference, Carmen was introduced as the only Native American librarian in California and she felt wonderful. Carmen wished her mother was with her for the recognition.

Carmen lived through rheumatic fever when she was ten years old. The disease left her with damaged heart valves, yet she was able to have her aortic valve replaced when it wore out. With heart problems and battling diabetes Carmen lived rather matter-of-factly and with effort toward health maintenance. Once at a health check-up she reported she was walking to work every day. The doctor responded, “Carmen, you saunter.” Yes, that calmness she exhibited in relationships with others was reflected in her stroll. You can hear her chuckle in response to “saunter.”

Many witnessed Carmen’s love of family. She treasured her sons: John Samuel “Sam” Wolfinbarger and Daniel Jerome “Danny” Wolfinbarger. Sam and Danny identified themselves as Native American and Carmen appreciated they selected what was comfortable for them. Their father, Harold Wolfinbarger was Hupa whose German last name came from a great-grandfather. Carmen taught her children and their friends to strive to do the best, no matter the task. In striving to do the best, a person will undoubtedly do a little better than expected she said. Raising her sons was one of the happiest times of her life. Even with hardships and difficulties of single motherhood, of divorce after 15 years married and of a life that was far different from her mother’s, Carmen said she had a happy life, a good life.

You never heard Carmen say she wanted, or wished for, more than she had. Instead, she was content and grateful, and took the greatest pleasure in many of the smallest things in life. The personal losses she suffered in her lifetime did not define her or detract from her life-long commitment of service to family, friends, strangers and the community she loved so well. She bore losses with dignity and relied heavily on her stalwart faith in God to give her strength and light her way.

Carmen so loved and enjoyed her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her grandson Kirk and his wife Rebekah lived with their children near her in Weaverville. Her grandson Michael moved to Adin after the Weaverville mill burned. Carmen strived to live long and spend time with her great-grandchildren:  Christina Rose Wolfinbarger, Kitanna Malea Wolfinbarger.

Carmen enjoyed growing up with many siblings and sharing life-long care for each other. She was especially grateful for the adult relationship she had with her sister Gloria and for Gloria’s attentiveness as illness dominated life. Carmen’s deep love of family extended to her stepmother, Manuela, stepsister Julie and half-brothers Ralph and Jesus.

Carmen suffered, with the comfort of her faith, family and the support of many good friends, the passing of her son Sam in 2006 at the age of 47 and the illness of her son Danny who was diagnosed at age 22 with schizophrenia.  Carmen was preceded in death by her father and mother, the father of her sons Harold “Chief” Wolfinbarger, her son Sam, her granddaughter Kari Lynn Wolfinbarger Springer, and her siblings: Refugio, Jr. “Duke” and Paul.

Carmen was an active citizen of Trinity County through gatherings, membership and volunteering. Carmen was a regular attendee of school and community performances, as well as theatre and speeches—she was ready to go when asked, “Would you like to…?” Carmen enjoyed playing Scrabble--she and her friends played without keeping score and they shared a special joy in noncompetitive word-smithing. She was a member of the Trinity County Historical Society, the Weaverville Garden Club, the Business and Professional Women, the Trinity County Friends of the Library, a Weaverville book club, the Susanville Indian Rancheria, the St. Patrick Catholic Church and its Legion of Mary, as well as a weekly prayer group. Carmen was a member of the Trinity Hospital Auxiliary and worked its gift shop one day a week until it closed in 2018. Carmen volunteered one morning a week at the Golden Age Center. Also, Carmen served as a board member for the Indian Education Program administered through the Trinity County Office of Education, and as secretary for the Trinity County Behavioral Health Board. Carmen was one of the founders of Rural Indian Health in Trinity County. In the 1990s, Carmen received high recognition from the California Indian Education Association when she was named an Honored Elder.

Carmen described, with deep fondness, Weaverville. She thought very special:  the place, the people who chose to live here and what they did for each other. The closeness of those living in the mountains affected appreciation for each person, as well as brought people together to celebrate. Carmen lived in Weaverville longer than she lived in her hometown, Susanville, and she came to represent much of what is special about the Trinities and its people.  

A memorial Mass for Carmen will be offered at St Patrick Catholic Church at 102 Church St, Weaverville 1PM on Saturday, August 24th. Prior to the Mass, a rosary will be said starting at 12:30PM. Following the Mass, a reception will be held at Canterbury Hall.

Memorial donations may be made to St. Patrick Catholic Church maintenance fund, PO Box 1219, Weaverville CA or a nonprofit of choice.

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