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Ruth González de García receives Adelante’s Chávez Humanitarian Award on March 27

 

By Alan Abrams, La Prensa Senior Correspondent

 

March 26, 2008: Ruth García, one of the Latino community’s legendary González Girls of Toledo, is being honored by Adelante, Inc. on March 27, 2008, as the recipient of the social-service agency and Latino Resource Center’s César Chávez Humanitarian Award.

 

If you are a newcomer to Northwest Ohio or otherwise need to know why Ruth García is receiving this award, take a minute to read this story her oldest son, Fred García, Jr., recently shared with La Prensa.

 

“When we lived on Knorr Street off Broadway, our house was often mistaken for a social-service agency because so many people were always there and so much activity was going on in the house.

 

La Raza was across the street on Broadway, and people were always at our house because my mother was involved in so many activities like voter registration, civic participation, immigration issues, and helping those who were imprisoned – all to help the Latino community. 

 

“After World War II, as many Mexican immigrants moved into Toledo, my mother devoted herself to helping those newcomers settle in – helping them to find housing, jobs, and loans. She and her sisters helped with medical needs, legal court interpretation, income tax filing, and citizenship issues.  Such assistance was vitally important because at that time few institutions in Ohio accommodated Spanish speakers. In time, she became the madrina of her community

 

“When I was growing up, I always used to wonder how my mother got to know so many people. The answer was that when my father came home from World War II, we lived for a while in the rectory next to the church.

 

“Whenever the priest needed a witness for a baptism or a marriage, he would call for my mother. That’s why she has so many compadres and so many comadres,” says García.

 

Now 87, and living with the Little Sisters of the Poor in neighboring Oregon, Ohio, Ruth García is the second oldest of her famous sisters.

 

Sister María José is 89, and according to Fred García, she is the last Ursuline nun who still works in her habit.

 

Salud (Sally) González de Cortez, who has made working with seniors a cornerstone of her life, is several years younger than Ruth.

 

Two of their sisters, both also community activists, are deceased—Aurora (Audrey), who has been honored by the naming of both the Aurora L. González  Community and Family Resource Center and Aurora L. González Way, and María Sue González de Campos, who worked for almost three decades with EOPA [Economic Opportunity Planning Association].

 

The latter hermana was also the recipient of Adelante’s César Chávez Humanitarian Award in 2005 [Visit: https://laprensatoledo.com/Photo%20Pages/Chavez%202005/
Chavez%20Humanitarian%20Award%202005%20photos.htm]   

 

Sue Campos passed away on April 17, 2007, with a memorial scheduled for this April 17th.

 

Sonia Troche, Executive Director of Adelante, the Latino Resource Center, says the award is designed to be a Lifetime Achievement award in memory of César Estrada Chávez.

 

“For more than 60 years, Ruth García, through her activism, has made sure that voices of the Latino community were heard and that there were always opportunities for the Latino community.

 

“She is one of our local heroes.  My generation has all but forgotten how activists like her took on the system to get where we are today. She was a leader in the struggle, and she has proven her impact. We were very fortunate to have had Ruth García and her sisters in our community,” says Troche.

 

Ruth García helped organize and served as president of Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission Church in 1943. Beginning her activism at a young age, Ruth and her sisters rallied to the support of a Catholic priest who wanted to establish a church for Spanish-speaking residents. She married Fred S. Garcia, Sr. at the church that year. A veteran of World War II who served in the Pacific, he died in 1988.

 

 She was also a board member of the Guadalupe Family Health Clinic and the Guadalupe Recreation Center.

In the 1970s, Ruth, who always fought against injustice, led the community against City Hall after the local government held up federal funds allocated for the barrio. The issue became a rallying point that generated exceptional political action by the community. After five years of struggle, the people of the barrio succeeded in erecting El Centro Unico, a community center providing an array of health and recreational services for neighborhood children and senior citizens.

 

Her voter registration drive in the Latino community is credited with having helped elect Marcy Kaptur to her first term in Congress—in November of 1982.

 

According to her son, Ruth García met César Chávez through Baldemar Velásquez of FLOC [the Farm Labor Organizing Committee] at a farmworkers gathering in Paulding, Ohio. 

 

She also met and spoke with former Mexican president Vicente Fox and President George W. Bush during their visit to the Aurora L. González Center in the week preceding 9/11 [2001]. She presented Bush with numerous petitions, many relating to immigration issues.

 

As her son points out, Ruth García accomplished so many things because of her faith in divine providence. She came of age in an era when compulsory education was not mandatory in Ohio and very few Latino families thought twice about educating their daughters.

 

“My mother’s education was at St. Mary’s in Toledo and through the State of Ohio Civil Service Testing.  Whenever she went to apply for a job, she had to take and pass a civil service examination. I remember her telling me that ‘I just said a prayer and passed the test.’

 

“She retired in 1988 after more than 26 years as a State of Ohio employee of the Toledo Board of Education in Food Service Management. She worked for many years as a baker for various restaurants and bakeries in Toledo. She worked at Toledo Box Lunch from 1937 to 1940 and at Willys Overland from 1940 to 1943,” said Fred García. 

 

However, as often happens to a hometown hero, Ms. García was recognized nationally for her activism more than a decade before she received recognition locally. She received the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute Lifetime Achievement Award in October 1997 for her more than 50 years of community activism.

 

She has also been honored by numerous mayoral proclamations.

 

History of Ruth García and her familia
Fred García, Jr., is the oldest of the seven children of Ruth and Fred García, Sr.  Like his father, he fought for his country. He is a Vietnam veteran who has won three purple hearts. After earning his undergraduate degree in México, he worked closely with his mother and his aunts on their many projects including La Voz del Barrio, the community service agency and newsletter.

 

“While everyone always heralded Toledo as an All-American city, my mother always saw it as a family-friendly city to immigrants, regardless if they spoke English or Spanish.

 

“We were a tight knit family,” recalls García. Three of his brothers are union reps: Ron García, formerly of the Blade and now with Lucas County; Raymond, who is at Johns Manville; and John, who is at Chrysler/Jeep, is active in the American Red Cross and went to Ground Zero in New York in the wake of 9/11 to aid in the cleanup efforts.

 

Their sister, Alice Sutton, a registered massage therapist, is Ruth’s guardian. Another sister, Ruth Ann Mohler, is a medical transcriptionist. She lives in Waterville.

 

Their brother Richard, a Vietnam veteran, died in a motorcycle accident some years ago.

 

Ruth has 20 grandchildren, one great grandchild and another on the way.

 

Ruth’s mother, María Rojas González, was active in the SS. Peter and Paul Parish. Her father, Sylvestre González, had been a colonel in Pancho Villa’s Revolutionary Army in México.

 

Fred García tells a family story that may be apocryphal, but also helps explain how Sylvestre González brought 250 people up from México with him when he emigrated.

 

Says Gonzalez, “The city fathers in México City paid Villa $5 million in gold and gave him a sizable land grant just to keep him in the north of México and out of their politics. Somehow, that gold was divided and part of it wound up with Sylvestre González.

 

“Two years later, Villa was assassinated. We know that gold payment was made because we found a branch of his family in Mexico who had used part of it to develop a highly successful trucking company.”

 

We asked if García knew how much gold Villa had given to his grandfather. García chuckled and replied, “I know it was divided up somehow, and I also know my grandfather never went back to México.

 

“My grandfather had three sons from a previous marriage. He came to the U.S. with María to help her find her fiancé but kept her for himself,” says García.

 

“My grandfather was a medical student who delivered all his children. He was very successful as a rancher, which is how my mother was born in Omaha in 1920. He had a huge ranch and raised horses, but he was wiped out in the stock market crash of 1929.

 

“Half of his family decided to go back to México in trucks. He knew someone in Oak Harbor and he stopped and visited with him. When he saw he could find work here, he decided to stay in Toledo with his family. That was in 1932.

 

“He had a boarding house on Newton Street which he rented to people who were working for the railroad. Before there were braceros, they were called Box Car Mexicans. That was because the railroad let them live in boxcars until they went back to work. A lot of them lived in shanty towns along the tracks,” recalls García.

 

This is the fifth year that Adelante has awarded the Cesar Chavez Humanitarian Award, held near the March 31st birth date of Chávez.  The previous recipients were: Rudy Lira (2007), Baldemar Velásquez (2006), María Sue Campos (2005), and Dolores Rodríguez (2004).

 

 

 

 

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