Due to COVID-19 precautions, there will be no funeral arrangements at this time. A celebration of his life will be planned in 2021.
Roger Jose Peña, Sr. died from a heart attack on July 28, 2020 at his home in Barstow, California. He was the husband of Claudia Peña, with whom he shared 41 years of marriage. He is survived by his sons Roger Jose Peña Jr. and Walter Antonio Peña, his daughter-in-law Charlotte Kraenzle Peña, and his grandsons Maximilian (9), Leonardo (7), Sebastian (4) and Anthony (2).
Roger Sr. was born in Managua, Nicaragua on November 9, 1939. At the age of 18, he immigrated to the United States in hopes of greater opportunity for himself and his family. His mother, father, and three of his four sisters joined him in Los Angeles within the year. Roger Sr. lost his beloved father when he was only 20.
At 18, Roger Sr. began working for Tootsie Roll on the production line, and continued to work for Tootsie Roll and Dolly Madison (bakery owned by Hostess brands) for 34 years, retiring as a Supervisor. He was also appointed and served as his factory’s representative to the Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers’ International Union, headquartered in Kensington, Maryland.
A devoted father, Roger Sr. shared his love of soccer with his two young sons. His eldest son Roger Jr. had dreams of pursuing soccer as a career, and Roger Sr. did all he could to support those dreams, driving him across California and state lines to practices and games. He never missed a game. Roger Jr. ultimately earned a college scholarship to play goalkeeper at Pacific Christian College. His youngest son, Walter, graduated from California State University Long Beach and is currently a photographer and filmmaker. Roger Sr. unequivocally encouraged and supported Walter’s artistic and creative endeavors - he watched every film that he worked on and loved hearing about the different photoshoots.
Roger Sr. met the love of his life, Claudia, in the summer of 1978. Claudia was visiting her sister in Los Angeles from Nicaragua, and her Aunt Marta Alicia had insisted she call and meet Roger Sr. They say it was love at first sight, and they saw each other nearly every night for the three weeks Claudia was in the United States, and then they communicated regularly by post. Claudia left her position as a middle school principal in Nicaragua to return to the United States in October, and they were married in January 1979. Roger Sr. and Claudia were soulmates whose eternal love radiated for all to see. Their hearts are forever fused.
Roger Sr. was proud to be an American citizen. He was a true patriot – proud of America and all the opportunities and liberties it had to offer. A firm believer in generational progress, Roger Sr. was the embodiment of the “American Dream” – he worked hard for his family so his children would have opportunities he did not. He was a true gentleman, fiercely devoted to his family and had tremendous faith in God. Honest and always willing to listen, he became a father figure to many family members who sought his counsel and encouragement.
Roger Sr. was a hero to his sons and a quintessential man of character. He was a sincere, generous, kind, and courageous human being. His sons will always be proud to have had Roger Sr. as their father and forever grateful for his unconditional love and support.
In addition to his children and grandchildren, he is survived by two sisters, Wilma and Thelma. He was preceded in death by his sisters Norma and Lillian. It was his sisters who taught him to dance when he was little, and it was the beginning of a lifelong love of music and dancing. He danced beautifully, with rhythm and joy. Roger Sr. was also a lifelong fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Lakers.
In early 2019, Roger Sr. was diagnosed with Guillian-Barre Syndrome, a rare auto-immune condition that causes temporary and sometimes permanent paralysis. With the love and support of his family, especially his nephew Carlos Cruz and brother-in-law Fabrizio Martinez, he worked extremely hard to regain his ability to walk, and made a full recovery in less than half the time his doctors expected. A testament to his faith and his perseverance in the face of adversity, Roger Sr. walked through Disneyland in August 2019 with his grandchildren.