A Dia de los Muertos celebration at the  Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art at Cal State San Bernardino on Friday featured a community altar, face
A Dia de los Muertos celebration at the Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art at Cal State San Bernardino on Friday featured a community altar, face painting, food, Aztec dancers and other entertainment. ((Rachel Luna / Staff Photographer))

Photo Gallery: Honoring their ancestors

Latinos and others with a connection to Dia de los Muertos visited altars honoring their dead ancestors and celebrated other aspects of the holiday Friday at many locations in the county.

For some, like the Pensa family, the ceremonies carried a special emotional connection.

Four generations of the family gathered to see their late descendant Army Pfc. Tannie Pena's headstone reunited to his rightful gravesite at the Agua Mansa Cemetery in Colton after the government-issued grave marker went missing for 70 years.

An estate sale company owner purchased the headstone more than a year ago after it failed to sell at a client's estate sale in Highland. After months of research, the owner discovered the marker belonged to Pena, who died on August 14, 1942, and was originally interred at the historic cemetery.

"We are grateful that my grandfather's headstone was returned," said Garry Pena, 68, grandson of Tannie Pena. "My dad took us to visit the gravesite all the time when we were kids. Never in our imagination would we have ever thought we'd see it in its proper resting place again."

Though how the marker got separated from the gravesite remains a mystery, the Pena family said Friday's event will be a highlight in their family's legacy.

"It's wonderful and it's something we will never forget," said Tannie Pena's 90-year-old son Leroy Pena. "Now we have a connection to bring the family back together."

Other celebrations included one at Cal State San Bernardino and the Home of Neighborly Service in San Bernardino.

Dia de los Muertos - Day of the Dead - is one of the largest annual events at Cal Poly Pomona, and one of the most popular, said student Anelle Evora, who is also social justice leader at the school's Cesar Chavez Center.

"It's very vibrant, very colorful, and a healthy way to celebrate death," Evora said. "It's part of life."

ryan.hagen@inlandnewspapers.com, 909-386-3916,