Prosser family honors late-mother by naming restaurant after her

PROSSER, Wash. — It’s been five months since one Prosser family lost their loved one to a horrific crime. Now, they’re honoring Graciela Gomez, also known as Graciela Fuentes, by doing what she loved.

Fuentes was known not only for her smile, but for her cooking.

“She mainly cooked tamales and posole — that was her main specialties,” said Isabel Ramos-Fuentes, Garciela’s daughter. “It would be so weird how she could feed so many people off a small portion because she could make it last.”

Ramos-Fuentes learned how to cook at a young age. She said her mom taught her once she could reach the stove. Ramos-Fuentes would be in charge of cooking when her mom was sick. As she got older, they decided to look into opening a restaurant.

“My mom’s dream was kind of like — I want a place, you know, where I can cook,” she said.

She started to look for a place and found one in Downtown Prosser.

“We told my mom, ‘hey, we looked at a building and it looks like it’s right. It looks like it would work,” she said.

They were all in and started the process to get the building. On Aug. 10, everything stopped after a phone call that would change the family’s life.

“I thought, you know, maybe she had a heart attack or she couldn’t breathe or something,” Ramos-Fuentes explained.

Her brother called and said there was something wrong at their mother’s house. She rushed over and found police everywhere at the Prosser home. According to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, Fuentes was shot and killed in her home, allegedly by her husband, Silvestre Fuentes.

“To me it was like, up to the point I feel like it’s not true,” her daughter said holding back tears. “You know, I feel like she’s still here and I’m still waiting for that call. Even though it’s been months, it feels like I just talked to her yesterday.”

Silvestre was arrested the next day in Union Gap. As for Ramos-Fuentes, she questioned whether or not she wanted to keep her plans to open the restaurant. It was set to open in October.

But something or someone told her to do it.

“I just had to continue it for her,” she said. “Even though she’s not here, we’re still going to put her recipes out there.”

After Ramos-Fuentes, her four other siblings grieved and the family grieved their loss she pushed forward. That’s when she opened Fuentes Taqueria on Jan. 2 at 1219 Meade Ave. in Prosser. The menu was all because of her mother.

“I think it was kind of like, her hands that would make that food taste good because there are still some recipes that I still have from her that even though I put the same ingredients, the same portion — they don’t come out as good as hers,” Ramos-Fuentes said.

Two common themes are in the restaurant. Bible verses and flowers. Ramos-Fuentes said her mother recently started going to church with her. She also said her mother loved flowers and the garden she had at home.

“They say that heaven is full of flowers, so my siblings — we’re like, I bet mom’s out there in her garden picking flowers,” she said.

The holidays were hard for the family. She said her mom’s house was the place to be when it came to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“She was the connection to all of us,” Ramos-Fuentes said. “Now that we don’t have her or my dad, it’s like we’re just kind of wandering.”

The connection she’s hoping to get back is through her mom’s cooking.

“I’m going to dedicate it [the restaurant] to her…without her recipes, I don’t think we would be able to make it,” Ramos-Fuentes said.

Her mom’s picture will hang up in the front for every customer and employee to see. She hopes to get a plaque made to put underneath it.

“I don’t know why things happen like this, but I do believe that God can make something good out of bad,” Ramos-Fuentes said. “I miss her a lot. Wherever she’s at — heaven — she’s really happy.”

The restaurant will be open Monday to Saturday and closed on Sundays.