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By Jim Cornelius
News Editor 

Sisters embraces bereaved family


Last updated 1/11/2023 at Noon

The family of Maria Aviles Tapia, who died in a single-vehicle car accident on Thursday, December 23, is profoundly grateful to the Sisters community for the outpouring of support the family has received in the face of their tragedy.

“They’ve been doing such a good support for the family and the kids,” said Maria’s brother Jaime Tapia. “I really, really want to say thank you.”

Tapia, 38, died when the vehicle she was a passenger in slid on ice heading west toward Sisters just before 4 p.m., left the roadway and struck a tree. The incident occurred near the Sisters Rodeo Grounds. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Maria was the mother of five children, ranging in age from three to 19. A GoFundMe account has raised some $61,000 in support of the family. To contribute to the GoFundMe fundraiser, visit Additionally, a Maria Tapia Family Account has been established at First Interstate Bank. Checks should be made payable to Denise Tapia or Jaime Tapia. Checks may be dropped off at the bank, or at Rancho Viejo, where Maria Tapia was employed.

Donations can also be submitted to Family Access Network (FAN) for the Maria Aviles Tapia family rent and utility needs. Make checks payable to Family Access Network or FAN, mailed to FAN c/o Sisters School District, 525 E. Cascade Ave.

Sisters, Oregon 97759. Write “For Maria Aviles Tapia family” in the check memo.

Javier Luna, owner of Rancho Viejo, thinks fondly of his longtime employee and friend, who came to Sisters from Guerrero, Mexico, in 2003. The Tapia family, including Jaime, was instrumental in the establishment of Luna’s successful Mexican restaurant.

“I think this family has been special to me and the history of Rancho Viejo,” he said.

“She was a go-getter,” he said of Maria. “That’s the word to describe her.”

Maria always stepped up when there was extra work to do, and she was forthright when something needed to be said.

“She definitely got her opinion across,” Luna said. “At the end of the day, you miss that.”

Maria was the main provider for her family, main caretaker for a disabled mother, and the rock on which other members of the family relied.

Jaime recalled that, even though she was the younger sibling, he often turned to her for help when life got complicated.

“Any problems, we’d go to her and she’d find a way to figure it out,” Jaime said. “She always was there for me. I really had a good relationship with her.”

Jaime Tapia says that the family is determined to stay in Sisters and make a go of it.

“This is where my sister is staying, and this is where we’re all going to stay,” he said. “The intention is to stay here and keep pushing through.”

The Sisters community has and will continue to be instrumental in that mission. The Tapias’ family expressed gratitude to Rancho Viejo for their support and to Cenobia Gonzalez for establishing the successful GoFundMe fundraiser. Jaime also wanted to thank his extended family in Washington and California for their support.

Emotional support has been just as important as financial assistance. Luna translated for Zenaida Tapia, who has worked at Rancho Viejo for 23 years, who told The Nugget that she “feels the love every time she gets a hug. And it’s very heartwarming.”

Luna noted that care for the Tapias’ disabled mother will be an ongoing issue, and the family is looking for leads for establishing care for her. Anyone with information is asked to contact Luna at 541-390-7489.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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