Felecitas Reyes Arce ~ Born on July 24th, 1939 in Manila, Philippines. She is the youngest daughter of Patricio Sr. & Purification Reyes. Felecitas was the ninth of ten children. Her brothers and sisters treated her and cared for her like a “princess”. Her siblings were her mentors that protected, guided and advised her throughout her youth.
“Fely”, as she was often called by her family and friends, graduated from University of the East in 1960 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. She was courted throughout her university years by a charming Alfonso Arce, whom she later married on January 28th, 1962. Together, they had four wonderful children (Ornolfo, Romeo, Luz and Patricio). Alfonso was an aspiring accountant, and both Fely and Alfonso wanted to give their family a chance for a better life, so they decided to move to Canada to start their new adventure. On May 1971 (on Victoria Day), they planted their roots in Vancouver, BC.
Life was tough at first, but life became eventually good. They made life-long friends, wonderful memories and they were happy. They wanted to share this opportunity with their family members in the Philippines, so together, they were able to petition Fely’s nephew (Joe) and also Alfonso’s youngest sister (Susan) to give them equal opportunities to live a better life in Canada.
As Alfonso continued to work as an accountant, Fely was able to establish a successful Family Day Care in her home, while she raised her own children. Word got around how wonderful her service in caring for the children that eventually there was a waiting list to get accepted in her day care. The day care children loved her. She was called “Nanny”. In the course of 16 years, she practically raised and nurtured almost 100 toddlers. She cooked for them, fed them, changed their diapers, schooled them, prepped them for kindergarten, but more importantly… she loved them – and they loved her back. These children grew up to be educators, police officers, farmers, lawyers, designers and even soccer players (for the Whitecaps). Many of them came back to thank her after many years of being in her care. Some of them were hoping to place their children in Nanny’s day care.
Unfortunately, she had to turn them down, as Fely and Alfonso decided to pack up and move back to the Philippines in 1989, with their eldest son. With all four children as young adults, they decided to try a new adventure with a new business – a pig farm. It was a lot of planning and research, and a lot of work, but they were able to successfully start up their new business. Now, back in the Philippines and together with their families and long- time friends… life got exciting again. However, a couple years later, Alfonso got sick. Doctors thought it was his gall bladder. After the surgery to remove his gall bladder, Alfonso still didn’t get better. The family decided that he would receive better care in Canada, so in February 1991, Fely and
Alfonso came back to Vancouver. It was later discovered that Alfonso had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. This was a blow to the family. Alfonso was hospitalized in palliative care for 3 months. Fely never left his side. She was so present in the constant care given to Alfonso by the nurses and doctors, that, she became an honorary nurse and she took over in caring for him. Alfonso celebrated his 52nd birthday in the hospital together with his family and all the staff at Royal Columbian Hospital. Alfonso’s wish and promise to Fely, was to be able to wish her a Happy Birthday a month later. On the morning of July 24th, 1991, Alfonso wished her “Happy Birthday, Fely”. Later that morning, Alfonso passed away in his sleep, surrounded by his entire family.
Fely was widowed at the age of 52. She was very sad, but she decided to keep busy. She worked at Hudson Bay in the wigs department at Lougheed Mall and she was happy earning money and becoming independent. She was happy that she was able to attend her children’s weddings, became a grandmother (eight times) and watched her family grow. She was proud and felt very blessed to bear witness to these important milestones in her life. Family was always important to her – whether it was the Reyes Family or the Arce Family – Family was always her priority. Whatever they needed, she would give whatever she can. Whenever you needed a helping hand, she would reach out her hand. Whenever you needed advice, she would offer her wisdom. Whenever you needed just someone to talk to, she would lend her ear and listen.
In addition to family, her faith and the church were equally as important. As a young girl, she always sang for the church choir until she got married. Prayers were a nightly commitment. She’s always maintained a close connection with God.
Her final years…
In 2013, Fely went into a diabetic coma and was hospitalized for 2 weeks. According to the doctors, this incident triggered on-set dementia. Fely was slowly forgetting things, like forgetting to take her medication or forgetting where she placed things. At this stage in her life, and under the recommendation of her doctors, Fely made the decision to live in a care home, instead of living with her children. There, at the care home, she felt some independence. She had her own living quarters designed and decorated to her liking. She
had the freedom to go out any time with family or friends, come and go as she pleases, invited family and friends over, still be able to travel and yet have the peace of mind of having a nurse and care aides available 24 hours around the clock to administer her medications and have direct access to her family doctor when needed. In the seven years she resided there, she developed loving friendships with residences and the staff, she participated in all the exercise programs and entertainment activities, like Bingo, concerts, sing-a-longs, happy hour, as well outings to casinos, to Whistler, lunch picnics and many more.
But as her dementia progressed, Fely’s memory started to fade and her brain started to deteriorate. Fely was still fairly mobile, chatty and active in the beginning of this year. It wasn’t until Covid-19 became a pandemic and care homes were locked down. No more daily activities, no more family visits, no more outings. Fely was not able to keep her brain active, and as a result, her dementia became full blown. On September 17th, 2020, Fely developed pneumonia overnight. That morning, her family was called in to say their goodbyes. In the evening, the priest came and offered her, her last rites and then she fell asleep. Thirty minutes later, she passed away. Fely didn’t suffer. And she was with her family. She lived a good life. She was very much loved. She was 81 years old.
Sadly, Fely’s brother in California (Patricio Reyes Jr.) also passed away, just one day before she did. The Reyes family are overwhelmed with the double loss in their family.
Fely is survived by her two remaining brothers – Artemio in Florida and Rosauro in the Philippines – and her children Ornolfo (Maria Paz), Romeo (Yvonne), Luz (Jim), Patricio (Shirlee) as well as her eight grandchildren – Adriano & Saleena; Brandon (Justine) & Ryan; Cecilia & Jessica Jordan; Patricio Jr. & Athena.
The legacy of Alfonso and Felecitas Arce will continue through many more generations.