February 28, 2003

In Memorium

Don Roberto Ricardo Alvarez

Born: January 8, 1919
La Mesa, Ca.

Died: February 10, 2003
San Diego, Ca.

It is with deep sorrow and regret that one of our community’s outstanding citizens Roberto Ricardo Alvarez, passed away February 10, 2003, at the age of 84. El Señor Alvarez had returned from a business trip, accompanied by his eldest son, Roberto Jr., from Mexico. After arriving home, he began to feel stress in his heart and difficulty in breathing. Doctors who attended him inserted a pacemaker to assist his heart. Unfortunately, the pacemaker could not prevent him from suffering a massive disabling stroke. He fought a good battle pero Dios lo llamó.

Roberto R. Alvarez was born in La Mesa, California after his parents had migrated from Baja California. His father, Roberto Sr. was from San Jose del Cabo, Baja California and his mother, Ramona Castellanos was from Comonu, Baja Califonia. They had migrated to el Norte seeking a better life for themselves and their future children.

At the age of 12, (1931), Roberto R. Alvarez, who had an exemplary academic record at the Lemon Grove School District, was selected from amongst a group of 75 Mexican American students that were attending classes in the Lemon Grove School District, to become the poster child in what would become a major battles to end racist segregation in the schools of Lemon Grove and the County of San Diego.

Alvarez had been selected to be the plaintiff in what would become a landmark Superior Court case to desegregate the Lemon Grove School District. He would carry upon his shoulders the hopes and inspirations of the Mexican American community in what would turn out to be a memorable school segregation lawsuit filed against the Lemon Grove School District.

It was January 5, 1931, when the elementary school Principal, Jerome T. Greene segregated the school and sent the Mexican students to a two room wooden building (a stable) that was separate from the main school building. The parents, mostly immigrants from Mexico, knew what it was to be discriminated against. Class discrimination was rampant in Mexico. Being poor in Mexico, and not a member of the privileged class, assured a miserable existence for those relegated to that station in life. They were determined to prevent their children from being discriminated against in their new home! They acted quickly and ordered their children home.

With their lawyers, Fred C. Noon and A.C. Brinkely, the community formed, “El Comate de Vecinos de Lemon Grove”. They filed a class-action lawsuit against the school district in protest at what they considered to be an unlawful action by the school district. It would challenge the right of school district to segregate the school under the guise that they were providing equal but segregated schools. When the case came to trial, San Diego Superior Court Judge Claude Chambers ruled against the District and ordered the reinstatement of the children to the regular school! Justice had triumphed in San Diego County! The San Diego Superior Court had ruled, “That the equal but separate segregation statements violated the Constitution” and struck down the effort to segregate the Lemon School District. Segregation ended not only in the Mexican Barrios of Lemon Grove but also throughout the County of San Diego.

Roberto Ricardo Alvarez was determined to continue his education. In 1937 he completed one of his dreams, he completed his high school education at the Grossmont High School. With that education and a lot of nerve, he applied for, and got, a job with the Penny Food Store in downtown San Diego. He remained there until he joined the U.S. Navy during World War II. He served until Japan surrendered. His tour of duty was his “on the job training” for Roberto’s future. He served on Amphibious Transport ships as a storekeeper where he learned the accounting bookkeeping and the skills to deal with the purchasing, storing and distribution of all the supplies that they carried for re-supplying the fleet. To noone’s surprise, when the war ended, he returned to Penny Foods but this time as the Manager!

In 1950, deciding to go into business for himself, he founded “Coast Citrus Distributors Inc. in San Diego. By 1985 his wholesale distributorship had 200 employees, with sales of more than 100 million dollars. Coast Citrus Distributorship was ranked as the 12th nationally in income among Hispanic owned businesses. The beauty of Coast Citrus Distributorship was that it was family owned. The values that he brought to the business brought pride to our community. Those of us that got to know him and deal with him knew that at the heart of his business were the values and principles that he had as father, husband, and friend. He was honest, truthful, and not one to turn his back on those who were not as fortunate as he was.

The community responded to his acts of charity and support for the community and honored him, as he deserved. Don Roberto Ricardo Alvarez was named as: The West Coast’s Number One Entrepreneur by Nuestro Business Review.

Roberto Ricardo Alvarez was honored and recognized as: “Caballero de Distinción”, in May 1978 by the Mexican & American Foundation.

He was named the 1982 Recipient of the “Frontera Role Model Award” by the Mexican and American Foundation.

He was a strong supporter of the “Casa de la Niña” school and orphanage for girls located in Tecate, Baja California, Mexico.

The Members of the Mexican American Foundation honored Don Roberto as “The Man of the Year” in 1983.

Don Roberto was well known for his support in our community of the YMCA, Little League, and activities in behalf of the local public schools.

Señor Alvarez would never turn his back on LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens). He could always be counted on to provide the fresh fruits and vegetables required to complete the Christmas Baskets distributed during the holidays or to provide needy assistance when asked to assist the poor. Roberto Alvarez never forgot who he was and the debt he owed his people.

Don Roberto Ricardo Alvarez Sr. is survived by his wife Margarita; daughters: Lupe of Citrus Heights; Sylvia of San Diego; Mica Simpson of Jamul; Sons: Robert Jr. of Jamul; Stanley of El Cajon; Jimmy of Orange; and Nicky of Yorba Linda. Sister: Mercedes Palmer of Lemon Grove; Brother: Antonio of San Diego; 21 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

Rosary and viewing scheduled at 7pm Friday at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, El Cajon. Funeral Mass 1pm Saturday at the church followed by burial at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery. A reception will follow the burial at the Town & Country Hotel, Terrace Pavilion, poolside in Mission Valley

Que Dios Te Bendiga Y Te Guarde

Descansa en Paz

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