Amado “Sonny” T. Peña was born January 15, 1945 in McNary, AZ. He was a beloved husband, a super dad, a fun brother, and a true friend to many, a lover of fishing, BBQs, socializing, and being one hard-workin’ son-of-a-gun. He was invited to partake in a one-way ticket to Heaven on Friday, February 19, 2016.
He was well known by most as Sonny. He was a beam of positive energy who liked to spread cheer with a fantastic sense of humor, a sincere outlook, and deep sincerity. Throughout his life, he cultivated his favorite pastime, interacting with interesting people and regularly visiting many family members from various locales—in which he is survived by aunts, uncle, many cousins, nephews, and nieces. He reveled in making brand new acquaintances, and helping others who were in need.
The women in his life were abundant. He preferred the company of witty and smart gals. He loved his mom, Irene Peña (deceased). He cherished the spunk of his older sister, Priscilla Potts. He cared deeply for his younger sister, Nedra Valenzuela (deceased). He married his main squeeze, Nellie Padilla Peña, 47 years ago, with whom they had two girls, Monica Skaff of Phoenix, married to Douglas Skaff, and Amanda Orr of Mesa, married to David Orr.
His pride and joy were his two daughters, Monica and Amanda. He taught them valuable life lessons like being independent and empowered, getting a good education, and always putting family first. He also encouraged them to attend catechism as children and go to church regularly, join school politics as he was quite a politician, and not to be afraid of leadership opportunities. There were of course other little valuable life lessons like how to quickly change a tire, how to get the most speed when on a sleigh, how to tie a clean fishing hook and pick the best bait—he was quite a fisherman—how to cook a pretty yet delicious meal—presentation was ever so important, and he’d always say “Everything’s just better with a tortilla.”
His father, Elfigo B. Peña (deceased), is responsible for Sonny’s passion for home-style cooking;
teaching him the restaurant business beginning at the Waltz Cafe in St. Johns, AZ. After graduating from St. Johns High School in 1964, Sonny attended Northern Arizona University for a year in Flagstaff, AZ. He was later drafted by the US Army and served from 1966 to 1968. He trained and fought in the war of Vietnam, and ranked up to Sergeant E5 by 1967. After his honorable discharge, he got married in 1969 and moved to Phoenix. He worked fulltime for the Del Webb Corporation and went to night school at Phoenix College to become a Spanish teacher.
After living in the big city of Phoenix, AZ, Sonny longed to raise his family in the same small town environment he grew up in. He’d often share his fond childhood memories, such as swimming with friends in the Little Colorado River, learning how to hunt critters like rabbits, playing a serious game of marbles, building a bike from scratch--you name it. So in 1975, the family packed their bags, moved back to St. Johns, and the rest is history. Sonny started working for the Apache County’s Assessor’s Office as an entry-level appraiser. In addition, he inherited the family bar, Gilbert’s Adobe Inn, and ran the business for many years. Over the years at the Assessor’s Office, Sonny continued earning more certifications and promotions within the office. Eventually, he attained the position of Chief Deputy Assessor. He retired from this position in 2012.
Sonny preferred the company of a tight-knit community, and made it his mission to get involved in various local committees, organizations, fundraisers, and side businesses. He was a social butterfly with a purpose, and was inspired by so many individuals who also loved their small town living.
After retirement, Sonny excelled at conquering idleness, and took great pleasure in maintaining or excavating his yard and plants, enjoyed reading newspapers and history books, watching classic westerns and war pictures, shining his shoes to perfection, grooming his cat Gatito, and training his dog Sailor to be independent, happy and social, much like himself. Either his military training or a racing mind allowed him to sleep for only 4-6 hours a night. He considered this a normal, full night’s sleep. He used to say, “the human body only really needs 6 hours of sleep. Imagine all the time wasted in just sleeping.” In fact, he preferred to take cues from the cat and became a professional catnapper in the afternoon. He impressed family members with being able to slip into dream mode on command with the TV on while holding a full beverage upright in one hand and the remote control in the other, and then wake up to finish an earlier conversation.
He loved to give advice, even when it wasn’t asked for, especially about topics he faced himself or advice that others gave that helped him. Some of his usual sayings included:
“Early bird gets the worm.” This was one of his favorite sayings.
“You may want the slow dollar, but the fast nickel is what pays the bills.”
“Finish homework as soon as you can so you can watch your favorite show to reward yourself.”
“If you borrow anything from someone, be sure to give it back in better condition than how you received it.”
“Treat others as you would want them to treat you.”
“Stretch your legs. Get outside and breathe the fresh air.”
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a monetary donation in memory of Amado “Sonny” T. Peña to the St. Johns Catholic Church in St. Johns, AZ. Sonny devoted many years to volunteering at his parish and took great pride in the charitable work that the Knights of Columbus afforded him.
The family would also like to express deep gratitude and thanks to the St. Johns Police Department, the St. Johns Fire Department, and the Mountain Vista Medical Center staff, who took great care of Sonny around the clock.