Local Obituaries

Silvia Estapé de la Campa, one of the first Cuban flight attendants, dies at 87

UNWAVERING FAITH: Silvia Estapé de la Campa (right), with her daughter, Alexandra Villoch (left), publisher of the Miami Herald, inspired the family with her action-based faith.
UNWAVERING FAITH: Silvia Estapé de la Campa (right), with her daughter, Alexandra Villoch (left), publisher of the Miami Herald, inspired the family with her action-based faith.

Silvia Estapé de la Campa lived around the world with her family — always ready for an adventure.

But she made history when she found herself in the middle of Biscayne Bay in 1956.

There she was, one of the “Shipwrecked Señoritas,” performing a safety test for National Airlines in the waters off Miami. A March 1956 Miami Herald clip touts de la Campa’s selection as one of the airline’s first Cuban flight attendants back in the snazzy Sinatra Come Fly With Me-era. “Pretty, rugged and bilingual,” the attendants were called.

Estapé de la Campa, 87, died Sunday.

For a year, before she married Joseph “Pepe” de la Campa, her husband of 59 years, she flew the Havana-Miami-New York route.

“She didn’t believe she was there to provide service, she was the entertainment — she would sing and play her guitar,” recalls her daughter, Alexandra Villoch, president and publisher of the Miami Herald Media Co.

Fitting, given the Havana-born Estapé de la Campa’s passion for music, singing and dancing. “She had an incredible and uncanny ability to compose poetry to celebrate any event — something she inherited from her father, whom she adored,” Villoch said.

Her lifestyle could keep a travel agent busy for days. Given her husband’s job as a construction engineer whose work took him to copper mines and airports around the globe, the de la Campas and their two children, who arrived in Miami in 1960, were always on the go, moving to a new locale every few years.

Miami. Puerto Rico. Louisiana. Texas. Guatemala. Peru. Chicago. London. San Francisco. Alabama.

Estapé de la Campa turned all of those moves into learning experiences for her children.

“She just had this incredible sense of adventure,” Villoch said. “Our summers were filled with archaeological digs. She heard there’s this train to Lake Titicaca so off we would go. She was very independent and ahead of her time for the time frame she grew up.”

But when she set down anywhere, she immersed herself in the community. For instance, Estapé de la Campa helped create The Guardian Angel Preschool of St. Joachim Catholic Church in Homestead.

There, she would help unwed mothers, children, families. She’d prove an inspiration to her own children.

“She was unwavering in her faith … and believed in not sitting and praying but that you put it into action,” Villoch said. “You were blessed and you give back to others. You don’t wait to be asked. You just do it.”

In addition to her daughter and husband, Estapé de la Campa is survived by her son, Gabriel de la Campa, and granddaughters Danielle Villoch and Victoria de la Campa.

A viewing will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Ferdinand Funeral Home, 2546 SW Eighth St., Miami, and Mass at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Augustine Catholic Church, 1400 Miller Rd., Coral Gables.

Donations in her memory can be made to The Guardian Angel Preschool at St. Joachim Catholic Church, 19150 SW 117th Ave., Miami, FL 33177.

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