Roberto D. Gonzalez; 1946-2013: Local advocate for Latinos also a Vietnam vet


Roberto D. Gonzalez, who labored for decades, largely out of the spotlight, in service to Toledo’s Latino community, died Wednesday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township. He was 66.

Mr. Gonzalez, who lived in South Toledo, suffered organ failure, but only had been in ill health since late July, daughter Leanna Gonzalez said.

He’d retired as a coordinator of the Hispanic/Latino Outreach Program, which began in the early 1990s as an advocacy program for crime victims under the auspices of the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office. Mr. Gonzalez found some in the community hesitant to take part in the criminal justice process, whether because of a negative experience or out of pride.

“We need to be able to make our clients aware of all the services that can be provided,” Mr. Gonzalez told The Blade in 1994. “The crime might be the symptom of some other problem, not a root cause.”

He avoided just handing out referral slips to other agencies, because without securing real help, “then we’re part of the problem, and these folks remember who really helped and and who didn’t,” he told The Blade.

On Tuesday, City Council is to consider the honorary naming of a stretch of Segur Avenue near Broadway in his honor.

“My uncle was a doer,” said Councilman Adam Martinez, a nephew and godson. “He knew friends in high places, and he had friends in low places, and he was able to make people get together and get things done. He didn’t have an ego, and people felt comfortable with him.”

He was a former board chairman in the 1990s of Adelante, then focused on substance abuse treatment.

He was named a 1997 Distinguished Hispanic Ohioan by the state’s Latino Affairs Commission — and was lauded afterward in a resolution of the General Assembly.

“He had such a big heart,” said Patti Cruz, his former wife. “Whether you were Puerto Rican or Mexican or South American, his heart belonged to the Latino community.”

Mr. Gonzalez came to Toledo in the 1970s and became a program coordinator and outreach worker at the former Guadalupe Center on Segur. After a stint as youth director at the Mexican American Youth Association, he returned to the Guadalupe Center as the agency’s director. In the 1980s, he worked for the Ohio Department of Agriculture in Columbus, first as a director of the commodities program and then as a supervisor of amusement ride inspections.

He was born Sept. 6, 1946, in San Antonio to Angela and Roberto Gonzalez. He left high school at 17 to join the Army and during his hitch earned his equivalency diploma. After a term in the reserves, he joined the Marine Corps. He was a radio operator and served in Vietnam. His family moved to Detroit while he was in the military, and he joined them there after his honorable discharge.

Surviving are his daughter, Leanna Gonzalez, and sisters, Teresa Monita, Lupe Castano, and Anna Goodreau.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Monday in the Newcomer Funeral Home on Heatherdowns Boulevard, where visitation is to be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday.

The family suggests tributes to the Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky or Toledo Seagate Food Bank.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.