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Published: Wednesday, 2/10/2010

Advocate for Latinos active in community

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Ruth Garcia, 89, who led voter registration drives, spoke out for the Latino community, and helped her South Toledo neighborhood, died Saturday in the home of her daughter Alice.

"She was in a fragile state for the last year" with diabetes and heart and kidney problems her son Fred, Jr., said. She lived in the Sacred Heart Home, Oregon.

She and her sisters - including the late Aurora Gonzales and Maria Sue Campos - were known widely for their activism on behalf of their neighbors, their community, and people in need.

In December, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner honored the Gonzalez family with a ceremonial glass key to Toledo.

Mrs. Garcia had many honors of her own: membership in the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame, lifetime achievement awards from the Adelante Latino Resource Center and the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute, the Cesar Chavez Achievement Award, named for the late labor and civil rights leader.

"She was very well respected in the community," said Celso Rodriguez, publisher of El Tiempo, a Latino weekly community newspaper.

Each honor surprised her, and she credited the support of the community, her son said.

"At the same time, she felt that when she saw an injustice, that she should take the confident and fearless position to resolve that injustice," he said. "She was a religious woman. She felt once she was baptized, she was not a second-class citizen in any sense."

Mrs. Garcia and her sister Aurora helped form La Voz del Barrio, a group of 200 families, to promote community concerns. She encouraged voter registration and championed immigration reform.

At the recreation center named for her late sister Aurora, Mrs. Garcia and her son Fred greeted President George W. Bush and Mexico's President Vicente Fox during that pair's Toledo visit on Sept. 6, 2001.

The stretch of South Avenue from Anthony Wayne Trail to Broadway is known as Ruth Gonzalez Garcia Way.

She was born Dec. 27, 1920, in Omaha and named Maria del Refugio Gonzalez. She was known to most by the name a grade school nun gave her.

She lived on a farm in Minnesota until 1932, when the family moved to Toledo. She was a baker for bakeries and restaurants. She was in food service management when she retired in 1988 from the Toledo Public Schools.

She was godmother to many, the result of her involvement with Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission Church, where she witnessed sacraments for the Spanish-speaking congregation. She helped families with immigration problems, she acted as a translator, she helped with tax returns. And so began, unintentionally, her political network.

"In politics a lot of times, it's who you know. She would know the right people who could get [problems] solved," Mr. Rodriguez said.

She and her husband, Fred, married in October, 1943. He died Dec. 22, 1986.

Surviving are her sons, Frederick, Raymond, Ron, and John, daughters, Alice Sutton and Ruth Ann Mohler, brothers, Peter and Anthony Gonzalez, sisters, Sister Maria Jose and Salud Cortez, 15 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

Services were rescheduled and will be at 10 a.m. tomorrow in Immaculate Conception Church, where she was a longtime member. Arrangements are by the Coyle Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to the Sisters of Visitation, Toledo, or Little Sisters of the Poor, Oregon.

Contact Mark Zaborney at:

mzaborney@theblade.com

or 419-724-6182.



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