Yesenia ‘Yesi’ Hernandez. | Facebook
IDAHO FALLS — The owner of a popular authentic Mexican restaurant died Friday, two days before her 32nd birthday.
Yesenia “Yesi” Hernandez was a wife and mother of three children ranging in ages from 10 to 15. She was also the head owner of Puerto Vallarta Mexican Restaurant.
In August, she was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is where cancer cells move beyond the lymph system into other tissues and organs.
Her mother, Maria Hernandez said doctors diagnosed Yesi with the flu around Christmas. She said her daughter had almost completed six months of chemotherapy, which weakens the immune system.
From there, she said, things went downhill.
“I can’t even think,” Maria said. “I just keep hoping that it’s just a dream, and she’s going to walk in anytime.”
Yesi was sedated from the time she went into the hospital in December until her death. She died at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Up until contracting the flu, Maria said Yesi was hopeful she would beat cancer.
“Her doctor had told her that maybe another four treatments and she should be OK,” Maria recalls. “There’s no guarantee, but that’s what the doctor was telling her.”
Maria visited Yesi the Monday before she died, but Maria said she is the only other one who knows how to run the business, so she had to return to Idaho Falls.
“It was devastating for me to leave her down there because as a mother, you want to be with your kids 24/7 when they’re sick like that, but my heart was telling me that she was going to make it,” she said.
Puerto Vallarta is family-owned, but Maria says Yesi has been considered the head owner since 2012 when her dad put her in charge.
“We worked as a team, but she was the one that would make the decisions at the end (of the day),” Maria said.
Yesenia “Yesi” Hernandez. | Facebook
The business began operations over 25 years ago, according to Maria. She said Yesi was around 7 years old at the time.
Her family bought a home behind the restaurant where they lived for 16 years. After school, Yesi would head over to the restaurant.
“Her childhood, it was mainly the restaurant because we were always there,” Maria said. “That was like our first home.”
Yesi even met her husband, Manuel, at the restaurant more than 15 years ago when he was hired as a cook.
“This was her life. She was very dedicated to it,” Maria said.
Yesi was responsible for duties such as ordering items, paying bills, applying for food licenses, and hiring and training employees.
Maria said she’d be at the restaurant every day from morning to night, but would leave for a few hours to pick her kids up from school in the afternoon. She’d spend time with them, make dinner and then head back to work.
“She was loved by all our customers, very friendly, outgoing, always happy and a hard worker,” Maria said.
What will happen with the business is unclear at the moment, Maria said. But she said it was Yesi’s dream to keep its doors open.
“Everybody at Puerto Vallarta appreciates everybody’s help and support, and we’ll be here for them,” Maria said.
A GoFundMe was set up to help Yesi’s family pay for medical bills.
A funeral date has not yet been announced.