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Former city council president, Louis Escobar, passes away

By La Prensa Staff

 

August 30, 2020: Former Toledo City Council President Louis Escobar passed away over the weekend at the age of 70 from a long-standing heart condition on Saturday, August 29.

 

According to his long-time partner Kelly Altenberger, Escobar dedicated his life to the service of others long,…before and after his retirement. Escobar held many positions during his career, including as a priest, Adelante, Inc. executive director, and at-large Toledo city council member.

 

“I want them to remember that his heart was with the community,” said Alternberger. “He was a tireless advocate for what he thought was right for the community. He was surrounded by people who had their own agendas, but he never let those other agendas get in his way. Louis was different. Louis built bridges. I think that was part of his success.”

 

Even political insiders considered Escobar to be a longshot candidate when he ran the first time for Toledo City Council in 1997 as its first-ever openly gay candidate. No Latino had ever been elected to city government office at the time, either. But Escobar served two terms on city council, the last two years as council president. He decided not to run for a third council term.
 

Escobar developed a reputation as a ‘consensus-builder’ as city council president, sometimes angering his own Democratic party with some of his decisions. Escobar was known to reach across the aisle to council Republicans and regarded council committee appointments in a nonpartisan manner. He counted Toledo Mayor Jack Ford and Judge Joseph Flores among his political mentors.


Louis Escobar


Kelly Altenberger and Louis Escobar


Louis with his mother Nancy and brother
John Escobar

 

“Louis Escobar was an outstanding public servant, but more importantly, he was an even better person. When we served together on Toledo City Council, he was someone I looked up to and respected,” wrote Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz on social media. “He was a true trailblazer and leaves behind a legacy few can match. This is a great loss for Toledo.”

 

Escobar actively worked toward social justice within the Latino community, devoting a lot of his time to causes and concerns such as education, healthcare, diversity, and cultural competence. He, along with his close friend, political activist Connie Eason, received a Diamante Award in 2002.

 

“I'm deeply grieved by the loss of our dear friend and great public servant Louis Escobar,” echoed longtime friend Connie Eason on her Facebook page. “My heart is heavy by his passing. He was a great man and friend to Toledo and loved all who were fortunate to have crossed paths with his beautiful spirit. May you get the much-needed, peaceful rest.”

 

 

_Altenberger stated Escobar was known for saying what he meant and meaning what he said, no matter the cost, which sometimes angered political colleagues.

 

During a 2001 Toledo visit by then-U.S. president George W. Bush and Mexico president Vicente Fox to highlight improved ties on trade and law enforcement, and some progress on legalizing some of the 3.5 million migrant farmworkers in the U.S., Escobar called it as he saw it to the New York Times. “'Let's get real, it's a photo op,”' he said at the time. “I want to see some action. I want to see dollars for programs.”

 

“Louis and I changed each other’s lives. We helped each other get more centered,” Altenberger said. “We used to have arguments. He drove me nuts and I drove him nuts. But we worked at it. We learned how to communicate with each other even when we were aggravated.”

 

Most of Escobar’s career was devoted to public service—five years as a Catholic priest, as a jail counselor, as a probation officer, as a facilitator/director of a self-help group for people living with HIV/AIDS, and as a substance abuse counselor. He also ran a homeless shelter and served as interim coordinator at the University of Toledo’s Multicultural Student Center.

 

As the executive director of Adelante, Inc., Escobar doubled the social service nonprofit’s budget, introduced innovative, culturally-sensitive programs, and was instrumental in coordinating Adelante’s fifth year anniversary celebration and in creating César E. Chávez Humanitarian Awards banquet.

 

Escobar himself was awarded the César E. Chávez Humanitarian Award at the 2010 ceremony.


“As an elected official, he combined this experience with his leadership and commitment to provide a needed voice on [Toledo] City Council for those who would otherwise not be heard including senior citizens, the disabled, minorities, the unemployed, and underemployed,” then-Adelante executive director Sonia Troche said at the time.

 

“He was in and out of so many communities and everybody knew him and saw his drive and commitment and heart,” recalled Altenberger.

 

Michael Marsh, former Fair Housing Center director, who now lives in Hawaii, worked closely with Escobar when he was board chairman at the nonprofit.

 

Together, we shared a deep passion for human rights. We even made a memorable trip to Memphis to tour the civil rights landmarks,” he wrote on Facebook. “Kelly, you were a devoted and caring partner. May God bring you peace and comfort during your time of sorrow and loss.

 

There’s one thing that I will never forget that…from a fair housing perspective at least, was one of Louis’ greatest achievements. He wrote and passed the City of Toledo’s Human Rights Ordinance. Passed in the late 1990s, this legislation made it illegal to discriminate in housing and employment against someone based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Marsh.

 

Escobar served on a number of other boards and commissions, including: The Northwest Ohio Area Office on Aging and the Northwest State Community College Foundation, among others.

 

 

_Escobar was born January 27, 1950, at the former Riverside Hospital. He grew up on Indiana Ave. in a predominantly Polish neighborhood and attended St. Anthony’s Catholic Church as a youth. According to Altenberger, Escobar decided he wanted to become a priest at the age of 12.

 

“Whether he still had the collar or not, he had the sense of community and service in the name of God,” said Altenberger. “He never, ever lost that. The greatest achievement of his life has to be that he helped people and he was effective at helping people.”

 

Escobar is a 1968 graduate of Central Catholic High School, receiving a bachelor of arts degree from St. Mary’s College in 1972, a Master of Divinity from SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in 1976, and a master’s degree from the University of Detroit in 1976.

 

Escobar is survived by his life-partner of 32 years, Kelly Altenberger; his mother, Nancy; brothers, Victor and John Escobar, stepbrother, James; foster brother, Joseph Campos, Jr., and numerous nieces and nephews.

 

A funeral Mass is being scheduled for Sts Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Toledo. Arrangements are being handled by W.K. Sujkowski & Son Funeral Home on Airport Hwy.

 

Editor’s Note: Web photos taken at Louis Escobar’s 70th birthday party at Real Seafood Company restaurant on January 27, 2020.

 

 

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2020 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 09/01/20 15:43:55 -0700.

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