Born: Puebla, Mexico on 29 January 1946

Passed away: Vancouver, WA on 07 December 2020

Aged: 74 years

Service Details

A private funeral Mass will be held in spring at St. Mary's Church in Ridgefield.

Funeral Company

Layne's Funeral Home, Battle Ground, WA

The Story

Maria Elena Hernandez of La Center passed away December 7, 2020 at 74 in Community Home Health and Hospice, Vancouver, WA, after a long illness. She was born January 29, 1946, in Puebla, Mexico, to Francisco Tinoco and Guadalupe Gonzalez Tinoco. She graduated from Fremont High School in 1965. Later, she attended Barclay Business College earning a diploma in “Legal Secretary”. This proved to be a wise career move that benefited her immensely when the family relocated to the Northwest in the early 90s. She was known by her family and friends as “Helen.” Her grandchildren called her “Gma,” an endearment Helen was especially fond of. When her grandchildren were toddlers, she would often hold them, have them caress her face with their small hands, and repeat, “special Grama.” To this day it’s a phrase they hold dearly and remember lovingly.

Helen will be greatly missed for her sense of humor and concern for others. She was very kind, thoughtful, and compassionate. Her passion was cooking. Every holiday season she put her skills to work, not only cooking elaborate meals for the family but for others, too. Annually, she volunteered at St. Mary’s Church during the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, cooking up a Mexican breakfast for the parishioners- with volunteer help from her family, grandchildren, and church patrons.

Each Christmas it was her household tradition to make tamales. Everyone, including the four grandchildren, participated. It being a typical cold and wet Northwest winter, it was quite common for a grandchild or two to have the sniffles, so Gma kept a watchful eye that no unsightly ingredients went into the “masa”! This tamale tradition continues to this very day with her granddaughter Breanna making tamales enlisting, of course, her own 4 children and like Gma eyeing those errant sniffles as well!

Gma’s giving nature also extended to the community. She stepped forward to cook at one of the local homeless shelters in Hazel Dell with her husband and grandchildren doing all the prep work. Once again she cooked up a righteous meal that we were all eager to devour. But she forbade us to eat one morsel of it, admonishing that this was for the homeless and we could do without. We were upset! After our shift work, we would end up at a drive-through ordering burgers. But it was not the same!

It was not just cooking that Gma had a passion for. She loved to dance and during her adolescence she competed at VFW dance halls with her brother Armando. They won several dance competitions, excelling in doing their energetic Salsa. This was a dance routine that she later taught her husband Jay whom she said had two left feet. It was a challenging accomplishment! She definitely loved her “oldies but goodies” music and annually on New Year’s Eve, she would celebrate in festive style, adorning the kitchen with banners, balloons and a table cloth with a New Year’s theme. For refreshments, she had trays of finger food along with her special baked cookies and punch. She had the grandchildren dance the night away playing her oldies. A favorite song for the youngest grandchild, Brennan, was “Blue Moon”. He would get Gma’s kitchen whisk, pretend it was a microphone, and enjoy his sing along. We all found it amusing and partied to our hearts content with dance and song.

She was preceded in death by her parents, son Xavier Padilla, and brothers Armando, Tony and Efren Tinoco. She is survived by her husband Jay of 42 years, son Richard (Cheryl) Padilla Jr.; siblings Frank (Corrine) Tinoco; Aida Hattori; and Beatrice (Alfonso) Saldana; daughter-in-law Tanya Padilla, brother-in-law, Mauricio “Mo” (Nancy) Hernandez; brother-in-law Roberto (Naty) Chevez; sister-in-law Cecilia (Jim) Monachello; grandchildren Breanna (Brandon) Hoekstra; Brandon (Alisha) Padilla; Bradley (Naomi Concho) Padilla; Brennan (Taylor Schell) Padilla and great-grandchildren: Kaylee, Kimber, Kinley, Christopher, Sawyer, Logan, Andrew, Alexander, Ava, Adrian, Scarlett, and Shelby. There are also many nephews and nieces.

Helen was a Judicial Assistant at Clark County, WA District Court when she retired.

All who were fortunate to know Helen admired her caring feelings. Her memory will forever be with us. May she be in God’s goodness and rest in peace free from all suffering.

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Due to Covid restrictions, private memorial services will be held in the spring at St. Mary’s Church, Ridgefield, WA.

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My deepest sympathies to you and your family. I pray for peace and comfort as you grieve. Tia Helen will be missed; I remember her kindness and the love she had for her family. She was very caring and generous and went out of her way to make you feel at home. I remember her fondly and grieve with you. You are in my thoughts and I’m holding you all in my heart.
With love,

Belen Vergara


Thank you so much.

Jay Hernandez


Belen Vergara shared a photo.


My condolences, I will always remember how warm and welcoming Aunt Helen was. I always felt welcome when I visited. I am praying for her and I'm sure her laugh will brighten up heaven.

Benjamin Garcia


Yes, I agree! Thanks!

Jay Hernandez


Jay Hernandez


My deepest sympathy to you and your family, dear brother. I know you are missing her greatly. I will always remember her kind and loving ways. Heaven is a little bit brighter with Helen up there feasting at the Lord's table with her beloved son, Xavy. Love from your sis, Cecy, Jim and family.

Cecilia Monachello


Thanks, sis! Love you.

Jay Hernandez