Matriarch of Mission Funeral Homes, a pioneer for east Austin and mortuary business, dies at 87

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN/Austin Business Journal) — Austin’s Hispanic community is mourning an entrepreneurial leader: Lois Pena Villaseñor, co-founder of Mission Funeral Homes, who died from COVID-19 complications on July 28 at the age of 87.

During her career, Villaseñor made a name for herself as a trailblazer in the funerary and business worlds, beginning when she and husband Charles founded the first Mission Funeral Home in east Austin in 1959.

At that time, Villaseñor made history by becoming one of Texas’ first female funeral home owners/licensed funeral directors. Throughout her career, she garnered many accolades, including being named Businesswoman of the Year by the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and becoming the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Texas Funeral Service Commission.

Mission Funeral Homes says its first home was the first to build a “parlor” for Hispanic families to have access to a funeral chapel to pay their respects.

“Lois Villaseñor leaves behind an unmatched legacy of compassion for others as she laid the groundwork in East Austin in the 1960s for how funeral homes and crematoriums would meet the needs of grieving families for generations to come,” said Diana Maldonado, President of the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “Mrs. Villaseñor is truly a trailblazer who led Mission Funeral Homes operations for six decades.”

Villaseñor was born in 1933 in Cuero, between San Antonio and Victoria. After marrying Charles Villaseñor, they moved to Austin from Houston in 1959.

Outside work and family, Lois Pena Villaseñor’s other duties over the years included member of the local Red Cross chapter, board member with the local LULAC chapter and involved member at her church, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.

She is survived by her son, Charles Villaseñor II; daughters, Rebecca Villaseñor Burrisk and Melissa Villaseñor-Dye; two grandsons, Charles Douglas Dye and Spencer Keith Dye; brother, Adam Pena; nephews, Kenneth Villaseñor, Johnny Villaseñor, Steve Villaseñor and other family and friends.

She will be buried at the Texas State Cemetery, next to her husband, who died in 1991. In lieu of flowers, the Villaseñor family said donations can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association of Austin.

Today, the company has three locations and son Charles II, who’s been running the company since 1992, says services for Austin families will continue.

“Funerals for families whose loved ones suffered from COVID-19 have been all consuming,” said Charles II. “But my mother would have wanted Mission Funeral Homes to continue providing the same level of compassionate care for others that we are now providing to our own beloved mother.”

To read her full obituary, visit Mission Memorial Homes.

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