Thelma V. Estrella, 78, cultural performer, veterans’ advocate dies

/ 11:40 PM April 23, 2019

Community activist Thelma V. Estella died in Chicago April 4 at age 78. MANILA MAIL

WASHINGTON, DC – “Thel” to family and friends, Thelma V. Estrella, 78, of Derwood, Maryland died of lung disease April 4 in Loyola Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. She had been confined at the hospital’s ICU unit since March 25.

In a message posted that day, she shared the doctors’ diagnosis with dignity, humor, faith and acceptance: “Thank God it’s not contagious. The sad part is not curable. Right now I’m 100% using OXYGEN. I’ll be confined at ICU until the Lord receives me. May God prevail in my life so I could still help Ate Linda and Marvin. May God continue to guide and give us strength, courage, peace, love comfort and happiness. Please pray for us who are terminally ill.”


A memorial service to celebrate her life will be held on Saturday, May 18, 11:00 a.m. at St Luke’s Lutheran Church, 17740 Muncaster Road, Derwood, Maryland.

An active member of many community organizations, notably the Marinduquenos, the Philippine American Foundation for Charities (PAFC) and the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans (ACFV), Thelma dedicated her last 40 years to a life of volunteerism and community service.


An ardent promoter of Philippine arts and culture, she once directed a rondalla composed of her nephews and nieces that performed at various public events. A folkdance teacher, she shared her many talents with groups like Tanghalang Pilipino, mentoring its young members in dance and stage performances. She was generous with her time and resources during the community’s Philippine Festivals and Filipiniana Fairs, serving in various leadership positions as part of the organizing committee.

Thelma Estrella (seated right) with Filipino World War II veterans and community leaders at the Bataan Day Commemoration on April 9, 2017 at the Philippine Embassy. MANILA MAIL/Bing Branigin

In the 1990s and in the years that followed, she was a strong advocate for Filipino World War II veterans in their struggle for equity and justice. A daughter of a veteran herself, Thelma joined community leaders and veterans in walking the halls of Congress and demonstrating in front of the White House. She provided rides and refreshments and was a constant presence at public forums and protest actions.

In one of her Facebook posts, she expressed joy in being part of the veterans campaign: “I am so proud to help and support our Filipino/American Veterans. My father is Major Dr. Jose Daluz Estrella. I miss my Papa a lot. When I am with the veterans I feel that Papa is always on my side. My heart is always yearning, clinging for him. For his guidance. God bless us all!”

Born October 23, 1940, Thelma graduated from Union High School and earned her college degree in 1964 from Philippine Christian College in Manila.

On November 5, 2017, Thelma posted a picture of herself on Facebook riding a mechanical bull, with this note: “At 77, a Filipina cowgirl. Hee Haw. I did it. Enjoy, today is the first day of my life. I live one day at a time. Every day is a new day to start and I like to explore. God be with us always and guide us through.” The sign at the entrance to the bullpen said: “Ride at your own risk.”

Thelma V. Estrella with family members.  MANILA MAIL

She kept posting the same picture at various times with humorous messages: “Fearless. Me and my Vicious Bull. My dream is to go to Mexico and be a Bull Fighter. . . Round and Round I go. Me and my daring Bull Fighter. I beat him by not falling. Ha ha ha funnyyyyy it’s only an electrical bull, believe it. I’m glad I didn’t Fall or else I’ll have another hip replacement. Smile awhile.”

Her posts in the months prior to her passing were full of acceptance, faith, hope, courage and love of family:


“Life’s too short. Hug a little. Kiss a little. Love a lot.”

“May God continue to guide us and give us strength and courage peace and comfort and happiness. Always have Faith to reach our destiny.”

“May we all have a wonderful blessed memories of our family and friends and relatives. May God continue to guide us and give us strength and courage peace and comfort. Friendship lingers forever! I do care.”

” Life Is Unpredictable and Full Of Incidents, so stop worrying so much.”

Weeks before she died, Thelma shared in her post a “Candle of Hope” to honor cancer fighters and survivors. “Our destiny is full of mysteries,” she noted. “God leads us as we live one day at a time.”

Thelma is survived by Renato Magturo, her husband of 52 years; sons Anthonius Magturo and Narcissus Magturo; siblings Jose (Lolita) Estrella, Jr., Venus Dinsey, Luvisminda (Marvin) Reitman, Lunaver (Rosita) Estrella, Balagtas Estrella; nephew Zarie Dulay and several other nieces and nephews.

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TAGS: Filipino community leader, obituary, passing, Thelma V. Estrella, veterans advocate
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