Teresa Villareal [1935-2013]; Latino activist helped migrant farm workers


Teresa Villarreal, 78, who helped migrant farm workers and the Latino community in Toledo during the 1970s and 1980s, died Sunday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio in Perrysburg Township.

Mrs. Villarreal died from complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, said her daughter Gloria Villarreal.

She said her mother had battled the cancer for several years. She moved into Sacred Heart Home, Oregon, in July after living in Texas since the early 1990s, Ms. Villarreal said.

Born on Feb. 3, 1935, she grew up in Banquete, Texas, west of Corpus Christi.

The former Teresa Salinas, she married Ismael Villarreal on Dec. 14, 1957.

Ms. Villarreal said her parents, as a young couple, were migrant workers and traveled to Michigan, Texas, Oklahoma, and other states, working in cotton and other crop fields.

In the 1960s, the Villarreals moved to Toledo, where Mr. Villarreal took a job with Toledo Terminal Railroad as a machine operator. Ms. Villarreal said her mother became active in the local Latino community near their home in East Toledo and Good Shepherd Church, where their family attended.

She joined Latinas Unidas Para Accion (Latin Women United For Action), which strove to improve conditions for Spanish-speaking women and children.

She also went into the farm fields of northwest Ohio to counsel and provide services for migrant workers.

“My mom was always involved in the Mexican community for one reason or another,” she said.

Ms. Villarreal said her mother took on more responsibility in social work and reached out to Spanish-speaking people to offer help with mental health services and health-care needs.

She worked with the Lucas County Health Department Migrant Project and Planned Parenthood League of Toledo, and was among the women who founded Mexican Americans United for Health.

She also was chairman of the health committee at the Guadalupe Center on Segur Avenue in South Toledo.

Mrs. Villarreal was appointed in 1974 as a community worker for the East Catchment Area Community Mental Health Project of United Health Services Inc.

She also was named to a state-level committee charged with developing a statewide health plan.

After Mr. Villarreal retired from the railroad in the early 1990s, the couple relocated to Pampa in North Texas. Mr. Villarreal died Aug. 7, 1995.

Ms. Villarreal said her mother continued her community activism in Pampa.

Surviving are her daughter, Gloria Villarreal; sons, Ismael, Jr., and Bobby Villarreal; brother, Paul Salinas; 12 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 4 p.m. Friday in the Freck Funeral Chapel, 1155 S. Wynn Rd., Oregon, where visitation will begin at 3 p.m.

The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

— Mark Reiter