Mary Jean Cena Lemos 1943-2011

Posted on October 19th in Obituaries

Mary Jean Cena Lemos died on Oct. 8.

She was born in Weed, Calif., on April 9, 1943, to Gino and Lea Cena. The second of five children, she spent a lot of time with her brothers, Robert, Francis, and David Cena.

Lemos also grew up with the influence of her Nona Linda Cavarzan.  Her mother and grandmother taught her the Italian language, the art of gardening and the finer points of Italian cuisine.  Anyone who stepped into   her kitchen, shared a potluck or bought a coffee wreath at the Christmas bazaar, knew of the wonderful aromas and flavors that she could whip up.

As soon as she was old enough to read, Lemos began singing in the church choir with her father. People in Weed still talk about how beautiful it was to hear them sing together.

After graduating from Weed High School, she attended the College of the Siskiyou’s in Weed, and then transferred to the College of the Holy Names in Oakland, Calif. Lemos graduated from Holy Names with a degree in education, and began teaching at Weed Elementary soon after. That was the beginning to a long and fulfilling career, where she influenced many young lives.

In 1965, her parents added Linda Ann to the family. This long-awaited sister was a blessing to Lemos, who doted on her baby sister for the rest of her life.

The same year, she began dating her brother Rob’s friend, Jimmy Lemos, and they were married on June 24, 1967. This partnership lasted 45 years. Her husband was her best friend, fishing buddy, hunting guide, constant support and love of her life.

During their life together, Lemos and her husband had five children — Suzanne Marie in 1968, Lisa Diane in 1970, Daryl James in 1973, Sarah Christine in 1978 and Jarod Anthony in 1985. Prior to establishing their family in Burns, they lived in Eureka, Calif., where Lemos taught at an elementary school while her husband began his Master’s degree at Humboldt State. They also briefly lived in Corvallis, where her husband worked on his PhD at Oregon State University. The family spent five years in Coos Bay, where her husband was employed by the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, conducting elk research. At the end of the elk research project in 1976, he  was transferred to the Steens Mountain Mule Deer project, stationed in Hines/Burns.

Lemos quickly fit into Eastern Oregon life, and soon became a regular in the church choir, singing at funerals and weddings and substitute teaching in all the schools. She enjoyed participating in community musicals, and is remembered for such key performances as Maria in “The Sound of Music,” and Nancy in “Oliver.”

Lemos enjoyed over 15 years as a Girl Scout leader, playing her guitar and singing many campfire songs.

She became the coordinator of the Religious Education program at Holy Family Church, and continued in this ministry for almost a quarter of a century.

She became a Noni (grandmother) in 1996. Lemos and her husband would travel often for events to see their nine grandchildren — Devin, Mikenna, Ellery, Landon, Cameron, Brycen, Raleigh, Brianna and Brent. The grandchildren loved sharing time with their Noni singing, laughing, story telling, picking veggies from the garden, fishing for catfish, having tea parties, baking bread, French-braiding hair, pulling baby teeth with her magic hankies and puzzle-making.

If there was a song to be sung, a crossword puzzle to finish, a volunteer needed at the Senior Center, a warm loaf of bread for dinner, or an encouraging word, everyone knew they could call on Lemos.

Lemos is survived by her husband, Jim, of Burns; daughters, Suzanne Yeakey and husband Jon, of Redmond,  Lisa Jones and husband Greg, of Hermiston, and Sarah Evans and husband Morgan, of Vancouver, Wash.; sons, Daryl Lemos and wife Jodette, of Nampa, Idaho, and Jarod Lemos and wife Natalie, of Burns; nine grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Gino and Lea Cena.

Contributions in her memory may be made to the CAN Cancer foundation, St. Charles Foundation, 2500 N.E. Neff Road, Bend, OR 97701-6015.  CAN Cancer is a non-profit organization that provides funds for transportation and lodging to cancer treatment patients and their families in and around Central and Eastern Oregon.

To sign the guestbook or send condolences, go to:

LaFollette’s Chapel was in charge of funeral arrangements.

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