Albert A. Flores, who dedicated his teaching career to the students of Libbey High School, died Monday in his Old West End home from complications of diabetes. He was 63.
He approached his illness as a student and read material from Eastern and Western medical traditions, his son Dr. Antolin Flores said.
"He tried to look for ways to restore his own health [through] proper eating and exercise habits," his son said. "He was constantly educating himself about natural ways to deal with his disease."
Mr. Flores retired in 2010. Toledo school district officials closed the venerable Libbey that year. Yet in 2011, for the Edward Drummond Libbey Farewell Event committee, Mr. Flores accepted college scholarship essays at his home from the class of 2010 -- and those who would have been Libbey 2011 graduates.
He started teaching Spanish at Libbey in the 1970s.
"He used his language to forge a bond and often saw many students came from broken homes," his son said. "He felt there was an opportunity to be a positive in their lives.
"There were few Hispanic teachers at the time in the Toledo Public School system, and he felt he could give a voice to the Latino student population."
He wore a tie daily. "He saw that if he took himself seriously, his students would take him seriously," his son said.
But his approach to language learning wasn't buttoned-down. He made up songs and recited nursery rhymes and hung banners.
"He approached it with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm," his son said.
Only Spanish was spoken during class time. "You always started with an A, and it was up to you to keep it," his daughter, Sarah, said.
His son said: "He used that approach to life. He was a glass-half-full kind of guy."
In 2008, he was a Diamante Award recipient in the Latino adult-leadership category. "He was proud he had been in the trenches 30-some years and someone noticed, 'You did make a difference in people's lives,' " his son said. "You can't go anywhere on the south side without knowing somebody who was his student."
He received a master's degree in education in 1993 from Bowling Green State University. He was a Toledo teacher evaluator for a year but missed teaching and returned to the classroom.
He was a board member of the University of Toledo's nationally known program of enrichment courses for minorities and poor white students, Toledo Excel.
He and his wife, Mary, sold Shaklee products for years, and he turned to that full time in retirement.
He was born July 17, 1948, to Gladys and Antolin Flores, who moved from Puerto Rico to Manhattan's lower east side and only spoke Spanish. He attended high school on a scholarship at Friends Seminary in Manhattan. He was a graduate of what is now Heidelberg University in Tiffin, where he majored in sociology and Spanish.
English was the main language in the Flores home as his children grew up.
"He wanted to ensure we had a firm understanding of English to give us the best chance to succeed, so he taught us Spanish as a second language," his son said.
Surviving are his wife, Mary, whom he married Jan. 21, 1979; sons, Antolin and Benjamin; daughter, Sarah Berlanga; sister, Gladys M. Flores, and two grandchildren.
Services will be at 10 a.m. today in Quarry Ridge Community Church, Sylvania, where he was an elder. Arrangements are by the Walker Funeral Home.
The family suggests tributes to the church or Toledo Gospel Rescue Mission.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.