Gloria F. Purlia


When as a young woman she was diagnosed with a “weak” heart, Gloria Fernandez conscientiously followed her doctor’s instructions and “spent a year in bed.” It was an early lesson in the fragility and value of life, and Gloria spent what turned out to be her many, many remaining years living it to the fullest. She passed away peacefully on Feb. 18, 2019, surrounded by her four children.

Gloria Maria Fernandez was born on Nov. 18, 1922, in Miami, Ariz. to Jessie Fernandez (nee Carrasco) and Joseph (Joe) Fernandez. Joe and Jessie owned and operated the Commissary Market grocery on Sullivan Street until the mid-1970s.

Gloria graduated from Miami High School at the age of 16 and enrolled at Arizona Teachers College (now Northern Arizona University) in Flagstaff where she was a vibrant presence on campus: lead in the school play, homecoming queen and member of the ski team. She later transferred to the University of Arizona in Tucson. One of her favorite memories of that time was performing on radio broadcasts from the USO Club of Tucson. She graduated with her education degree and teaching credential and had a 10-plus-year teaching career at various levels, including Miami High School, prior to starting a family.

Shortly after the end of World War II, a returning pilot offered his seat on a local Miami bus to Gloria’s mother and, for the first time, Gloria noticed that “skinny little Sammy Purlia” of Claypool (whom she had known all her life) was “all grown up.” They married in 1949 and moved to southern California in 1952 where they raised their family, mainly in the San Diego County town of Alpine where Gloria resided for the past 54 years. Gloria, Sam and their children periodically ventured back to the Miami/Globe area to visit family and friends, which almost always included a meal at the El Rey or a round of golf at the Cobre Valley Country Club.

Purlia’s Owl Rexall Drugs was the family-run business in the San Diego area, and Gloria made a point to work at the store at least once a week because, as she would say, “the family that works together, stays together.”

Gloria had many loves, which she enthusiastically passed along, including food and cooking, music and singing, art and painting, storytelling and acting. But most of all, Gloria loved the family she made and nurtured. 

Gloria is survived by her four children and families: Gina Purlia Johnson (husband Kent and daughter Casey); Marianne Demers (husband Joe and son John); John Purlia, and Danilo Purlia (wife Catherine Kuss). She was pre-deceased by her beloved husband Sam, and her siblings Robert Fernandez, Celia Griffin and Patricia Tameron.

A vigil and rosary was held for Gloria in San Diego on Thursday, March 7. Funeral services occurred the following day at Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Alpine, Calif., and Gloria was laid to rest at the Alpine Cemetery next to Sam.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center, 2119 E. Madison Ave., El Cajon, Calif. 92019.

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