108-year-old Chicago woman’s rich life makes her beloved icon in community and family

Hispanic Heritage Month

CHICAGO — What’s the secret to good health and a long, productive life?  The short answer, Dolores Quiroz will tell you is, “try to live good.“  

The 108-year-old Chicago matriarch is doing good for those in need and living a life of service in her West Side Chicago community.  

She credits her faith for sustaining her on a remarkable journey.  

Born February 3, 1913 in Barstow, California, the young Quiroz aspired to be a nun. But her large family moved to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico and needed her to work.

“She was the oldest of her siblings in Mexico,” her daughter Virginia Maria Quiroz said. “She basically became the career woman back then and her sisters were the ones who stayed at home.”

Quiroz earned a teaching degree and taught elementary school for 12 years. She and the family survived historic calamities like the 1918 Spanish Flu and the Great Depression.

“Terrible. I remember it well,” she said.   

But hardship couldn’t stop the determined young lady from crossing the border to learn English. She met her future husband Rafael Quiroz, a widower with four children who worked for U.S. Customs. The couple married in 1948.  

 But Dolores Quiroz from the start was an independent, unconventional bride.      

“She doesn’t cook and that was unheard of,” Virginia Maria Quiroz said. “So he hired a chef from the local hotel in Laredo and taught her. … She was ahead of her time.  She just wasn’t into the domestic role at the time.”   

Then the babies arrived. Maria Dolores Quiroz was born to the couple in Laredo, Texas, followed by George, Virginia and the youngest Mireya who was born in Chicago where the family moved into their Tri-Taylor apartment building in 1954.

The family moved into their home after Rafael Quiroz found steady work.

“He got good job and it was OK,” Dolores Quiroz said. “The children went to school, to college and I worked and everything is OK.”   

The resourceful Dolores Quiroz found multiple ways to support her young family.

“She took in kids or baby sat. She used to do laundry also until she started at the factory,” Virginia Maria Quiroz said.

Quiroz rose to supervisor at the nearby Ferrero Pan Candy Company before a stroke forced her to retire at the age of 72. Characteristically she handled the setback in stride.

“I got troubles,” she said. “I take it smooth, take it easy.”

It’s sage advice she’s shared through the decades with her children who of whom went on to become doctors, lawyers and administrators. 

The 10 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren all benefited from her 108 years of wisdom and her extraordinary ability to adapt to different roles. 

After her husband Rafael, passed away in 1993, Dolores Quiroz embarked on a series of trips to the Bahamas and Europe and the Holy Land. 

Despite her busy life, Dolores Quiroz always lends a helping hand, her family says.  From new arrivals to others down on their luck, she gives what she can. 

“She’s always been very giving, very forward in her intentions to make this a better world by helping our community,” Virginia Maria Quiroz said.

That generosity has earned Dolores Quiroz a lifetime of admirers.

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