Eight-plus months after passing the century mark, Nellie Terronez Munos of Silvis — the oldest surviving resident of Hero Street — passed away Friday, Jan. 26, 2024 at her home surrounded by her loving family.
A funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 2 at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Silvis. A rosary will be recited at 3 p.m. Thursday at Schroder Mortuary in Silvis. Visitation will follow until 7 p.m. with an Auxiliary memorial service at 6:15 p.m. Memorials may be made to Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.
Grandson Brian Munos (a retired Navy veteran) fondly recalled her 100th birthday party last year (on May 5, appropriately Cinco de Mayo) at the reception hall at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, attended by about 1,000 people over four hours.
“Everybody wanted to be around her, everybody wanted a blessing from her,” he said Wednesday. “We are a very, very blessed family and we have a lot of longevity in our family. But, and I know she’s my grandma and you know, whatever, but there was just a magnetism about her, man. I mean, she was like a celebrity.
“People just had to be around her and had to be a part of her,” Munos recalled. “So the 100-year mark is kind of put that giant exclamation point on, here I am. I am Nellie Munos and I did this for 100 years and she would tell you, time and time again, that it doesn’t happen without faith and prayer and family and love and support.
“So she was a shining example of, if you believe and you have the faith, you do what’s right, then maybe you can go on along,” he said.
“She raised all her grandchildren; at one point we all lived in the house,” Munos said in a May 2023 interview with Our Quad Cities News. “She was the mother, caretaker, grandmother, our matriarch and our strength. Grandpa worked at IH and carpenter jobs and grandma held down the house. She was the queen of the house. She raised me, my brothers, two cousins.”
“How do you quantify one person who did nothing but give of themselves and just be a total human being?” Brian asked. “Her faith in God, that’s a big part of who she is. Her faith is incredible.”
Last year, Nellie (who wore glasses), and said she’s never really had health problems and could still get around the house without a walker.
“My mom said when I was a baby, I looked like a little doll made out of wax,” she said last May. “I don’t know. I’m gonna be 100 years old and I don’t think I see a wrinkle on me yet…I’ve still got my mind. I’m physically all right.”
The city of Silvis about five years ago proclaimed May 5 as “Nellie Munos Day,” and part of her “movie star status was the fact that she wanted her birthday always celebrated as part of Cinco de Mayo,” Brian said. “But we as a family, we did not really even emphasize the Cinco de Mayo part. That was just kind of a coincidence. It was more about her.”
Moline-based documentary filmmakers Tammy and Kelly Rundle of Fourth Wall Films recorded interviews with both Nellie and Brian for a forthcoming Hero Street doc. On the day of Nellie’s death, Tammy posted on Facebook:
“We were so fortunate to have spent time talking with her for the Hero Street film project–she was feisty, fun, crystal clear in her reflections shared with us, and one thing was certain, her family meant everything to her. Our deep sympathy goes out to all who knew and loved her–may you be comforted in the beautiful memories shared with her.”
From California to Silvis
Nellie was born May 5, 1923 in Riverside, Calif., the daughter of Benito and Felisa Anguiano Terronez.
She married Joe M. Munos on Oct. 5, 1941 in Silvis. He served in the Navy aboard the USS George Clymer during World War II. He was former past Commander and Honorary Colored Guard Member of VFW Post 8890. He passed away April 28, 2007.
Nellie worked at Buddy L. for several years. She was the matriarch of her family and enjoyed cooking, sewing, singing, camping, and traveling. She was a lifetime member of the VFW Post 8890 Women’s Auxiliary and volunteered much of her time to the VFW and Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.
One of her brothers was Joe Terronez, a former Silvis alderman and the first Hispanic mayor in Illinois (who died Jan. 2, 2021 at 91). Their parents had three children in Mexico, before Nellie was born in 1923 in Riverside, Calif. Joe was born in boxcar No. 4 in the Silvis rail yards in 1929, and their father Benito was a blacksmith for the railroad.
Nellie has been interviewed by the Rundles for their forthcoming documentary in the Hero Street series – “The Last to Fall From Hero Street: John Muños’ Story,” expected to premiere over Veterans Day weekend in November 2024.
The film profiles John — brother of Nellie’s husband Joe, starting with the family’s journey from Mexico as they fled the Revolution. John and Joe’s father, Isabel, worked in the rail yards in Silvis, and his mother, Victoria, made their home in a boxcar provided by the railroad.
The families of the boxcar village experienced both acceptance and discrimination in their new community. At the time of the Great Depression, the families living in the railroad village were moved to 2nd Street in Silvis, a former dumpsite.
After high school, John Muños was working on the International Harvester combine assembly line in East Moline, when his draft notice from the U.S. Army arrived Sept. 15, 1950. He quickly married his sweetheart, Mary Louise Bessera, before he was sent to Korea with Company F of the 38th Regimental Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
Sometimes called “the Forgotten War,” the Fourth Wall film will show how John’s wartime experiences fit into the overall Korean War story. On Aug. 27, 1951, John (at age 23) was among 740 Americans killed in the Battle of Bloody Ridge. His body was never recovered.
Only a block and a half long, Hero Street lost six young men during World War II and two in the Korean War, more than any other street in America. Hero Street has provided over 150 service members since World War II.
Nellie’s many survivors include her children Bernice Shields, Thomas T. Munos, Richard J. Munos, Joseph D. Munos, Arthur J. (Jessica) Munos, Monica M. Lara, and Mary E. Munos; 18 grandchildren; 36 great grandchildren; 32 great-great grandchildren and a sister Delores (Richard) Esparza.
Nellie was preceded in death by her parents, husband, daughter Veronica Munos-White, seven sisters, and four brothers.
“I’ll tell you what she would tell you if you met her and that’s ‘May your guardian angels protect you from all danger and evil and keep you free from harm and get you home safely and take care of you and look after you’,” Brian Munos said. “That was her blessing.”