Photography

Belen Talens Churilla

May 5, 1940 ~ July 17, 2022 (age 82)

Tribute

Belen Antonino Talens Churilla, 82, passed away on July 17, 2022 at North Starr Post Acute Care Home in Turlock after a long illness with Lewy Body Dementia.  Belen was born the youngest girl of twelve children of Alberto and Saccoro (nee Antonino) Talens on May 5, 1940 in the town of Jaen, Nueva Ecija Province, Philippines.  She attended Catholic schools and had plans to become a nun but her family convinced her to become a teacher instead.  She taught in elementary and high schools and eventually became a professor of Psychology at the University of the East and Central Escolar University in Manila.  In that capacity she co-authored textbooks.  In addition, she helped campaign for her uncle, Senator Gaudencio Antonino from their home province.

Nearing retirement from the university, Belen attended an International Reading Association Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana and spent some time visiting her older brother Simeon Talens and his family in the Bay area.  A sister of her sister-in-law June took her to Las Vegas and to San Diego to meet friends from the Philippines.  While in San Diego Belen met her future husband, Leonard Churilla, a widower and retired U.S. Navy journalist who was staying with old Navy friends while working on his master’s degree in education. 

“It was a whirlwind marriage,” Belen would say. “I used to tell people that I kissed a prince but he became a frog because whenever Leonard saw water, he wanted to jump in.”   They were married in a civil ceremony in Las Vegas in December 1989.  A few months later Simeon’s family gave them a nice church wedding at St. Edward’s Catholic Church in Newark, Calif.  Eventually they moved from San Diego to Modesto to be closer to Simeon’s family who had a grape farm in Ceres. 

For an adventure, they decided to teach English in Korea for three years.  Upon their return they became substitute teachers in Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties.  Joining St. Joseph’s parish in 1997 they began as members of the adult choir.  While Leonard joined the Knights of Columbus Belen became a member of the Filipino-American Educators Association.  Later they both joined the Filipino-American Novena Prayer Group, Couples for Christ, Legion of Mary, and the St. Joseph’s Seniors Club.  Belen also served for five years as president of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Navy Fleet Reserve Association of Modesto while her husband served as vice president of Branch 197.  

Belen enjoyed traveling with her husband to Japan, Hong Kong, Macao, Thailand, the Philippines and Hawaii. They also visited Leonard’s Navy friends in Wisconsin, attended Leonard’s family reunion in Michigan, and enjoyed a trip to Niagara Falls in Canada with Leonard’s cousins.  While visiting Belen’s nephew Jun in Memphis, Tennessee they toured Elvis Presley’s Graceland, Chattanooga, and a bit of Georgia when Leonard made a wrong turn on the freeway ending in a side trip to a North Carolina casino.  Her nephew and his wife took them to see Our Lady of the Snows Shrine in southern Illinois, passing through St. Louis, Missouri. 

On a drive from California, they viewed the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Bryce Canyon in Utah.  While in Pennsylvania after attending Belen’s cousin’s wedding, they toured Washington, D.C.  Enroute to visit relatives in Edmonton, Canada, they passed through Nevada, slept in a tee pee in Idaho, and toured Glacier National Park, Montana.  On their return home they spent time in Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon.  For their 25th wedding anniversary they enjoyed a Caribbean cruise out of Galveston, Texas and months later spent another week in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Belen is survived by her loving husband of 32 years, two older sisters, Nelinda and Dolores in the Philippines, and more than 40 nephews and nieces in different parts of the world, 17 of whom she helped put through college.  Her remains will be cremated and interred at the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery near Santa Nella, California where her husband intends to be buried. 

A memorial service will be held on Monday, August 8, 2022 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Modesto.


Services

Visitation
Monday
August 8, 2022

4:00 PM to 7:00 PM

Service
Monday
August 8, 2022

4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
St. Joseph&rsquo!s Catholic Church (Modesto)

Memorial Service
Monday
August 8, 2022

7:04 PM
St. Joseph&rsquo!s Catholic Church (Modesto)

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