Lydia Angelica Perez Diaz

April 26, 1920 – September 23, 2020

Lydia Angelica Perez Diaz, born April 26, 1920, in Cienfuegos, Cuba, died September 23, 2020, in Smyrna, Georgia, USA, of complications from a stroke. Beloved wife, sister, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt and cousin to a family that flourished across five generations during her century of life. Remembered above all for her loving and cheerful personality, during good times and bad, that touched everyone who knew her. 

Preceded in death by her mother Angelica Perez (1894-1933), father Armando Perez (1894-1964), husband Ramon Fernando Diaz (1919 – 2004), stepmother Aracelia Machado Perez (1910 – 2008) and brother Delio Perez (1928 – 2015). 

Survived by her sister Norma Perez Romero of Miami, FL, brother Charlie Perez (Vicki) of High Springs, FL, sons Fred (Toni) of Smyrna, GA, Bob of Sylva, NC and Ray of Tampa, FL; seven grandchildren, Alan (Erika) of Marietta, GA, Kevin (Haley) of Smyrna, GA, Chrissy (Aaron) of Savannah, GA, Tasha (Fred) of Black Mountain, NC, Corey (Danielle) of Maggie Valley, NC, Kendra (Matt) of Black Mountain, NC and Christopher of Tampa, FL; three great-grandchildren, Ellie and Nic (Alan) of Marietta, GA and Kaleyse (Tasha) of Black Mountain, NC, plus six nieces and nephews, nine grand-nieces and nephews and many cousins.

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, a celebration of Lydia’s life will take place at a future date.

Lydia was born into a family of tradesmen, of Spanish and English heritage, who journeyed back and forth between Cuba and the US, in search of opportunity.

She spent most of her childhood in Cincinnati, Ohio, where her father Armando and his brothers built a row of five houses on Samver Road, that were soon filled with children, including her sister Norma (b. 1921), brother Delio (1928 – 2015) and many first cousins. 

A talented singer and pianist, she and her siblings studied with teachers who also taught such stars as Doris Day and Andy Williams. They performed as The Perez Trio at cultural events around town, and entertained troops at local USO functions during WWII. Even as her hearing and vision failed, Lydia continued to play the sweet music of her youth on the piano, from time to time, till the end of her days.

Though happy, her childhood included many challenges. During an extended visit to Cuba, she lived through that island’s infamous 1932 hurricane, and soon after lost her mother to tuberculosis. A decade later she gained a stepmother and lifelong confidant, Aracelia “Yaya” Machado Perez, who in 1944 gave birth to her youngest brother Carlos “Charlie” Perez.

Lydia struck up a pen pal friendship with Ramon Fernando Diaz, of Cienfuegos, an avid outdoorsman with an engineer’s mind, who went by his middle name. Through their letters, friendship bloomed into love, leading to their engagement and marriage in Miami on February 10, 1945. They first met in person on the day before the wedding, when he surprised her in her backyard, as she was hanging laundry on the line, with curlers in her hair. 

Their marriage lasted 59 years, until his death, and was considered by many the embodiment of the American Dream. It was not always easy to make ends meet, but as children of the Great Depression, they met this challenge with cheerfulness and creativity. At their house, even in their later, more comfortable years, everything was reused, and nothing was wasted. 

She was a homemaker while he built a career in the steel industry. They raised three sons: Fernando (“Fred”, b. 1946), Robert (“Bob”, b. 1947) and Ramon Fernando (“Ray”, b. 1956). On weekends they enjoyed fishing, and frequently visited Cuba, taking their car on a ferry from Key West, until the Communist revolution made this impossible. 

In 1967 they moved to the Tampa area, which she would call home for the next 49 years. They settled in Temple Terrace, in a house that became the site of many large gatherings of family and friends, including several memorable Christmases during the 80s and 90s. 

Lydia and Fernando loved having company — overnight guests could count on a warm place to sleep, a toothbrush stored in a personalized case, and a well-stocked cookie jar. Grandkids looked forward to special breakfasts, and playing on the backyard tree swing, or at nearby Bonnie Brae park. Adult gatherings often included punch or sangria, and spirited card games like Canasta or Continental, while Latin music played on the stereo. 

They were devoted grandparents. Grandkids Tasha, Corey, Kendra and Christopher, would often spend the night at Grandma’s house. Other times Grandma and Grandpa would come over to visit, bringing a box of hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts. They always attended school events, sports and performances, Grandpa standing in the back with his trusty camcorder.

They loved to travel, making frequent trips around Tampa, throughout Florida and across the country to visit loved ones.  They travelled to Central and South America, all over Europe and visited Spain several times getting back in touch with extended family and making new friends. In the 90s they were able to return to Cuba, which Fernando carefully documented on VHS.

The loss of her husband, who passed away in April 2004, would stay with her for the rest of her life. She missed him every day, particularly on special occasions, and met him in her dreams every night. Meanwhile, she carried on living, selling her beloved house and renting a one- bedroom apartment in Tampa, with a terrace overlooking a lake, and just across the street from her grandkids’ high school.

She traveled to Miami to see her sister Norma’s large family, who knew her affectionately as Cuca. She spent time with her sons and grandchildren in Georgia and North Carolina and kept in touch with her many cousins and friends. 

In 2010, at age 90, she moved in with her son Ray, who inherited her love of cooking. They spent holidays with his circle of friends and had many adventures in the kitchen. She continued playing her piano and spent time with her grandson Christopher. 

In 2016 she moved to Georgia to stay with Fred and Toni, and Toni’s mom, Ines. Her strength had diminished, and she was no longer the flurry of activity that loved ones remembered, but she remained a steady and cheerful presence, enjoying every family gathering, and spending time with her three great-grandkids. 

A big party was planned for her 100th birthday in April but had to be canceled due to Covid-19. Instead more than 40 family members gathered on Zoom, and she happily chatted with all of them, and enjoyed her favorite meal of barbecue ribs, a beer and birthday cake. 

After a sudden stroke and a brief but difficult hospital stay, she was able to return home for hospice care, where family members were able to visit one last time, in person or on Zoom, before she passed away peacefully with her grandson Kevin by her side.

Among her last words were “it’s so good to be home.”

Go and be reunited with Grandpa, you will both live on forever in our hearts. 

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3 years ago


You had a long and fruitful life, always surrounded by people who loved you. You touched all of us during an incredible 100 years. You have left an indelible mark on all who were lucky enough to know you. I was so glad that you spent your last years here with us and that you were able to come home and be here in the end. I will always miss you and Dad, but I am happy that you are both together again.
Be at peace as you completed all that you were sent to do in this world and did it with grace and a smile.

Love you always,

Kaleyse McCormick
Kaleyse McCormick
3 years ago

My great grandma was awesome she was also surrounded by love. I will love and miss you always grandma. I will always remember how soft your hands were and how happy you always were. Love your great granddaughter Kaleyse ???????❤️

Toni Diaz
Toni Diaz
3 years ago

Beautiful words dearest Kaleyse! ❤️

Kaleyse McCormick
Kaleyse McCormick
3 years ago
Reply to  Toni Diaz

Thank you so much hope you are doing well tell the family I said hi

Ana Clemencia
Ana Clemencia
3 years ago

Queridos Fred Tony y Fam. Que linda descripción de tu mami. Kevin hizo un lindo escrito. Disfrute esta lectura. Una vida plena. Lydia ya descansa en la paz del Señor junto a su amado esposo. Un abrazo para todos Uds. muchas bendiciones para toda la familia.

Toni Diaz
Toni Diaz
3 years ago
Reply to  Ana Clemencia

Gracias primita linda! ❤️