GILA BEND, AZ — For her children, Blanca Ruiz instilled the importance of family and kindness for others, even in the face of hate, two things that helped Ruiz persevere through major life losses. Now her family is using those same tenants to grieve with their mom's loss.
Last Saturday, August 14, Blanca Ruiz was killed in the extreme flooding in Gila Bend.
"Her last text to me was, 'I’m so proud of you, I love you,'" said Angela Chavez, Ruiz's daughter. “She often said, 'Mija, we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.'”
Ruiz worked as an administrative assistant at Gila Bend High School. Early in her career in Gila Bend, she worked as a crossing guard for students. Outside of her old office at the former Gila Bend High School Campus, community members laid flowers and a sign of thanks on the door.
"Always in our hearts. Blanca Ruiz, you blessed us with your love, friendship and kindness. Until we see you again in glory. Amen," read the sign.
Family says Ruiz, a devout Jehovah's Witness, taught her children to be kind to anyone, even if they aren't kind in return.
"She said, 'If somebody hates you, love them. If somebody hates you more, love them more.' My mom would always specify, why do I say that? Because we don’t know what people are going through," said Chris Ruiz, Ruiz's son.
Chavez said it was faith and family that kept Ruiz going after losing her younger brother and her mother, whom Ruiz cared for, for 11 years.
Last Friday, the day before Ruiz passed away, she had baked enchiladas for her students. Chavez says the family is spending a lot of time together, and trying to stay strong in faith, just as Ruiz, the pillar of the family, would have done herself.
"It feels like we’re... if we’re ever going to get over this we have to keep the faith and we rely on our god Jehovah that she talked about that she talked to everyone about," said Chavez. "If that's how she got through her tragedy and her loss, then we are going to be okay."
A GoFundMe has been set up to help Ruiz's family with funeral costs.