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Ezekiel Villa to receive award by Ohio Latino Affairs Commission at its annual Gala

 

By La Prensa Staff

 

Ezekiel Villa is one of the entities that will receive one of the Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan (DHO) awards at an October reception as part of Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM). The awards are given annually by the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs (OCHLA), a.k.a. the Ohio Latino Affairs Commission. The awards will be presented Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, at an evening gala, 6 to 10 p.m., to be held in the Governor’s Ballroom at the Sheraton Columbus at Capitol Square, 75 E. State St., Columbus.

 

The gala honors the outstanding accomplishments of the Latino community across the state, recognizing individuals, military servicemen and women, and organizations who work with and on behalf of the Hispanic/Latino community for their contributions in Ohio.

 

The Latino Military Service of Distinction Award pays tribute to serving men and women who continue to support our country through their engagement in their communities, along with leadership and success in their careers.

 

Ezekiel Villa, 88, is the youngest man on record to ever enter the U.S. armed forces, when he enlisted in the Air Force at age 14. Villa fought in the Korean War and retired in 1969 with 21-plus years of active duty. He served another eight-and-a-half years in the US Air Force Reserves.

 

Villa’s parents were migrant workers from Texas. Their three sons got tired of working the fields, so the older two brothers went to take an Army exam in 1948. Ezekiel tagged along, but sat in the back of the exam room and was inadvertently handed a test, too.

 

“My dad was goofing around and opened it up and started taking the test,” his daughter Dina recalled in a LaPrensa interview last year.

 

After the tests were graded, according to Ms. Villa, her father was the only one in the room who had passed. He scored high enough on the exam, he got to choose which branch of military service he wanted. Her father chose the Army Air Corps, precursor to the US Air Force.

 

“It was a snowball effect. He had no idea this was going to happen,” she said. “He didn’t mean to lie his way in. When asked how many years of schooling he had, he held up four fingers. The sergeant assumed he meant four years of high school, not the fourth grade. After that, he told some very colorful stories in order to get in. When he was 18, he went and told them the truth because he was up for a promotion and he knew they would do a further background check.”

 

His superior officers threatened to court-martial him, but sent him to serve in Korea during the war instead. During a battle with the Chinese/Koreans, he got shot and the opposing forces stripped him of everything except his pants—including his dog tags and I.D.—and severely beat him. He was left severely swollen and unrecognizable.

 

As Ms. Villa tells it, U.S. troops mistook him for a prisoner of war and took him with them.

 

“That saved my father’s life. Otherwise, they probably would have killed him,” she said. “He was a POW on the U.S. side for a couple of days, because they didn’t know he was one of them. I believe this was all due to his mother, at home on her knees, praying for his safety.”

 

Ezekiel later returned stateside to finish his military career in a downtown Toledo office.

 

According to his daughter, Villa and his wife Consuelo opened El Tipico restaurant in March, 1968, “now known as Toledo’s oldest Mexican restaurant and Ohio’s first and only fresh and organic Mexican restaurant. The owners have always insisted on buying fresh, local produce to support local businesses and remain true to a faithful customer base. The family also has grown fresh ingredients in its own gardens, some of it located on the restaurant’s grounds.” El Tipico, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, is now run by Dina.

 

Mr. Villa’s faith always has been a big part of family life and deeply rooted in community service. He graduated from Toledo Bible College and was ordained as a minister in 1972. Villa started Christ Latino Mission inside Christ Presbyterian Church at the corner of Talmadge Rd. and Sylvania Ave. later that same year. According to his daughter “the Sunday services became the first bilingual church in the area.”

 

Mr. Villa has also served in a variety of capacities with community organizations over the years, including: Maumee Youth Camp, Latinos Unidos, the Northwest Ohio Hispanic Business Association, Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center, Centro Unico, and Cherry Street Mission.

 

In December of 2013, Mr. Villa attended a sign unveiling where Toledo City Council renamed the intersection of South Ave. and Spencer St. to be Ezekiel Villa Corner in honor of his long-time service to his community and country. La Prensa was there and took a variety of photos.

 

 

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2019 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 09/03/19 20:05:30 -0700.

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