Sylvia Encinas, the former secretary of Hartford Elementary School and Chandler’s own “Mother Teresa” of sorts, died Tuesday afternoon following a bout with cancer. She was 62.
DeeAnn Schertz, a former colleague and close friend of Encinas, said doctors informed the family on Monday that her cancer had spread and there was nothing they could do for her. Encinas died at home, surrounded by friends and family.
Encinas was known throughout Chandler for her selfless giving and her willingness to go above and beyond to help others.
In the spring, community and family members pushed to change the name of Hartford Elementary to Hartford Sylvia Encinas Elementary S chool in honor of the secretary who had worked at the school for 27 years. But Encinas didn’t want the attention. “A lot of people do things so other people will notice, but (she didn’t),” Schertz said. “It was just a part of who she was.”
Schertz was a fifth-grade teacher at the school in 2000 when she first met Encinas, whose first impression she said was “amazing.”
“She was the person that made you feel welcome and opened her arms and embraced you,” Schertz said. “She noticed when people weren’t smiling, and she wasn’t happy until she helped you solve that need.”
It was not uncommon for Encinas to help pay an electric bill, collect clothes for needy students or even raise money for a funeral. She raised about $17,000 for a person’s funeral within a week, Schertz said.
Encinas was often nicknamed “Mother Teresa” but would shrug off comparisons to the late Albanian nun and say, “No, Mother Teresa did greater works than me,” Schertz said.
Although funeral arrangements haven’t been set, the Chandler Unified School District will proceed with its plan to rededicate the elementary school to Encinas on Sunday, said Terry Locke, district spokesman.
The event “might be a little more solemn,” Locke said. Family and friends are still planning to attend.
What: Hartford Sylvia Encinas Elementary School rededication When: 2 p.m. Sunday Where: 700 N. Hartford, Chandler Information: (480) 812-6700