Maria E. Cardenas, 79, of Johns Island, SC and most recently of Freehold, NJ passed away on December 19, 2023. Maria was born in Cardenas, Cuba and immigrated to the United States in 1962 as part of Operation Peter Pan. This was an exodus of over 14,000 unaccompanied minors from Cuba and was led by the Catholic Welfare Bureau. Parents afraid of the uncertain future for their children, with the Communist party planning to terminate parental rights by closing private schools and placing the children in communist indoctrination centers, sent their children to the US with hopes of joining them later in the United States.
Maria or “Eli” as she is known to the family, was sent to a wonderful family in North Carolina. She always had an interest in science which led her to an amazing nursing career, eventually becoming a Nurse Practitioner. Maria began her career as an LPN in North Hudson Hospital in Weehawken, NJ in the surgical and geriatrics unit. She was invited to the White House as a representative of the state of South Carolina. Maria held numerous professional offices throughout her career. She was the President of the South Carolina League of Nursing and was invited to attend exchange programs by the University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia. Later in her career, she was tenured nursing professor at Lander University in Greenwood, SC. Maria’s passion was to ensure the elderly were properly taken care of thus her specialty in presentations and consultation involved Gerontological philosophies.
Maria was a Eucharistic Minister, serving the community who were unable to attend masses.
Maria was predeceased by her brother, Joakim Cardenas and her father, Jose C. Cardenas. She is survived by her loving mother, Berta Cardenas-Oxamendi of Freehold, along with nieces and nephews who admired her greatly.
A visitation for Maria will be held at the Clayton & McGirr Funeral Home, 100 Elton-Adelphia Road (Route 524), Freehold Township on Thursday, December 21, 2023 from 11:00 AM to 2:30 PM with a funeral service to follow at 2:30 PM. Interment will be private. For information, directions or to leave condolence messages for the family, visit www.claytonfuneralhome.com