Cuban refugee Maggie Bloese made new life in Tulsa
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
1/22/13 at 3:08 AM
The sight of those makeshift rafts tossing in the ocean, and the desperate faces aboard them, always brought a tear to her eye.
But at the same time, Maggie Bloese could not help feeling a deep sense of appreciation.
The images of Cuban refugees - shown occasionally in news footage as they tried to make it to American shores - served only to underscore the courage and foresight of her father and mother.
Bloese was just 14 when she and her younger brother arrived alone in the United States, sent here by their parents to get them out of Cuba and away from Fidel Castro's regime.
As part of an exodus from the island in 1961, they put their children on a plane with promises of joining them soon.
Soon turned out to be a much longer time.
Living with cousins in different parts of the U.S., the siblings faced two long years of uncertainty before hearing any word from their parents.
"Maggie had to grow up fast, for sure. It was a difficult time," said her husband, Michael Bloese.
But the experience shaped her for the good, he said.
Always sensitive to others in similar situations, especially young Hispanic women, Bloese found in service to them one of her callings in life.
Maria Margarita "Maggie" Bloese, a longtime social worker and founding member of Tulsa's Hispanic American Foundation, died Jan. 15. She was 66.
A funeral Mass was held Saturday at St. Bernard's Catholic Church. Burial is set for 1 p.m. Tuesday at Fort Sill National Cemetery near Lawton under the direction of Fitzgerald Southwood Colonial Funeral Home.
A native of Santiago, Cuba, who moved to Tulsa in 1976, Bloese never stopped hoping that Castro would be toppled and that she could return to help rebuild her country.
Bloese's family initially had supported Castro's uprising, in which her father, a doctor, was a leader.
But along with a million fellow Cubans, they quickly realized that Castro was worse than the dictator he overthrew, Fulgencio Batista.
"We thought we were getting rid of a dictator. Instead we got a communist," Bloese told the Tulsa World in 1994, adding that their hopes for democracy and freedom dissolved rapidly.
Two years after they were all last together, her parents, too, finally got out, her mother by way of Spain, her father on a Red Cross ship.
Reunited in the United States, the family was at last able to make a new life together.
Through the upheaval of moving around, Bloese attended four high schools.
But influenced by her father, who believed in the liberating power of education, she persevered, graduating from Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock, Ark., before going on to college at the University of Oklahoma.
There, Bloese finished with a quadruple major of social work, sociology, psychology and Spanish.
A long career followed with the state Department of Human Services as a social worker and supervisor.
She later worked for both Saint Francis Hospital and Catholic Charities as a translator for expectant mothers who did not speak English. That included being present at bedside during births to translate what the doctor was saying, her husband said.
Bloese was active with Tulsa's Hispanic American Foundation, which she helped found in 1990. In the meantime, through cooking, stories and holiday traditions, she brought the Cuba of her youth to life for her family.
Unfortunately, Bloese was not optimistic, toward the end of her life, that her homeland would see freedom anytime soon. But she took small comforts where she could.
A few months ago, she and her husband discovered the wonders of Google Earth.
"We were able to find the house she grew up in in her Santiago neighborhood," Michael Bloese said. "It brought back a lot of good memories."
Survivors include her husband of 43 years; their two sons, David Bloese and John-Paul Bloese; and a granddaughter.
Original Print Headline: Cuban refugee made new life in Tulsa
Tim Stanley 918-581-8385
Maggie Bloese: She was not optimistic that her homeland of Cuba would see freedom anytime soon. But she took small comforts where she could. A few months ago, she and her husband discovered Google Earth. "We were able to find the house she grew up in in her Santiago neighborhood," Michael Bloese said. "It brought back a lot of good memories."