By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Former Edinburg Mayor Pro Tem Alfredo "Fred" Longoria, a native son, successful businessman, and longtime community leader who helped transform what many considered to be a sleepy border town in the early 1990s into a major economic force for South Texas in 2009, on Sunday, March 22, passed away as a result of complications from a stroke.
He was 80.
Longoria, who also served as the president of the board of directors for Amigos del Valle, suffered the stroke on Wednesday, March 18, according to a daughter, Priscilla Longoria-Olivarez, before passing away on Sunday evening at McAllen Heart Hospital.
Longoria served on the Edinburg City Council from May 5, 1992 to May 7, 2002, according to the Edinburg City Secretary’s Office.
He first entered the political arena in his successful race for the Edinburg City Council – then known as the Edinburg City Commission – with his campaign pledge to work on solutions to the decades-old problem of flooding in the downtown region when heavy rains inundated the area.
As a result of his inaugural campaign – and through the efforts of the city councils since then – more effective drainage infrastructure was eventually installed in that region of the city, reducing the time it takes to reduce major flooding from days to hours.
But he also was part of a series of city councils which forever changed the image and economic vitality of Edinburg.
He served on city councils which created the Edinburg Cable Network and the World Birding Center, upgraded the Edinburg International Airport (now the South Texas International Airport at Edinburg), built the Edinburg Professional Baseball Stadium, secured tens of millions of dollars in state funding for local and state roadway system improvements for the city, and helped champion for the creation of the University of Texas Regional Academic Health Center in Edinburg.
During his tenure, the economic growth of the city improved significantly, including attracting thousands of new jobs and several billion dollars in new construction to the community.
As determined as Longoria was to champion improvements for Edinburg, he was always quick to share the credit for successes with his fellow councilmembers and with the community in general, said former City Councilmember René A. Ramírez, who serves as chief of staff for Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen.
"I knew him long before he served on the council," recalled Ramírez. "He was a very successful businessman for many years, and during his distinguished service on the council, he was very tenacious. I remember his strong drive for spurring economic development. He will be missed."
For his part, Hinojosa said Longoria and the Edinburg City Council were years ahead of most Texas communities when it came to lobbying the Texas Legislature and state government for policies and funding to benefit their constituents.
"It was almost unheard of, having a small community like Edinburg in the early 1990s, develop a legislative agenda and then come to Austin to help its legislative delegation secure hundreds of millions of dollars in state money for their constituents," said Hinojosa. "Now, the leadership of Texas government knows exactly where Edinburg is located, and how determined they are to be major players in the legislative process."
For Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, Longoria’s passing literally hit home.
His son, Aron Leonel Peña, is married to one of Longoria’s daughters, Clarissa Longoria-Peña.
"I am very sad to hear that Fred Longoria has passed away. My condolences to his family and friends," the veteran state representative reflected. "Fred was not only a long time supporter but a good man who wanted to do right by his City of Edinburg. Sometime after our initial work together, Fred became a member of the family when my eldest son married his daughter," Peña said. "The City of Edinburg has lost a loyal son who will be dearly missed. May God speed."
Peña said Longoria’s service on behalf of Amigos del Valle, Inc. "was a prime example" of his commitment to improving the lives of thousands of people.
According to its web site:
Amigos Del Valle, Inc. is recognized as the largest and most enduring Non-profit resource senior service, multi-family and single-family housing service and home meal delivery service providers of the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas.
José E. Garza, executive director for Amigos del Valley, said he and his organization had lost a great friend and ally, who first came on board on May 16, 1995, representing the city, and continued as an at-large board member until last October 2008.
"When he served as one of our board members, including several terms as president of the board, he had a major contribution to the successes of this organization," Garza said. "His heart was always in the right place."
According to Memorial Funeral Home of Edinburg:
Alfredo “Fred” Longoria, 80, died Sunday, March 22, 2009, at McAllen Heart Hospital.
Longoria was born in Edinburg and had lived there all of his life. He served on the Edinburg City Council for ten years as city commissioner, mayor pro-tem and a member of the Edinburg Planning and Zoning Department. Longoria was also a board member of Amigos Del Valle and Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. He was an entrepreneur and owner of Fred’s Food Store, Clean Rite Janitorial Supplies, and Sweet Scent. He also served in the National Guard and was a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Edinburg.
He is preceded in death by his parents; a son, Michael Longoria; a brother, Rubén Longoria; a sister, Viola Silva; and a granddaughter, Miranda Hunter.
Longoria is survived by his wife, Sylvia Longoria of Edinburg; seven children, Clarissa (Aron III) Longoria-Peña, Priscilla (Rick) Olivarez, Michelle (Manuel) Guerrero, all of Edinburg, Derek (Sandy) Ruiz of San Antonio, Gina Longoria of Dallas, Lolly (Jesús) Peña of Edinburg, Fred (Allison) Longoria, Jr. of McAllen; 14 grandchildren; two brothers, Miguel (Angie) Longoria of Edinburg and Charlie (Kay) Longoria of California; a sister, Olga (Henri) Deroaul of California; and a sister-in-law, Leonor Longoria of Edinburg.
Visitation was scheduled to take place from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., with a 7 p.m. rosary on Tuesday, March 24, 2009, at Memorial Funeral Home, 208 E. Canton, in Edinburg. Funeral service were scheduled for 2 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Edinburg.
Interment was scheduled at Valley Memorial Gardens in McAllen.
Military honors were scheduled to be conducted by VFW Post 8788 of McAllen. Pallbearers are Rick Olivarez, Manuel Guerrero, Aron Peña III, Jesús Peña, Ricky Longoria and Leonel Silva.
In lieu of flowers the family requested that memorial contributions be made to St. Joseph Catholic Church Building Fund, 122 W. Fay, Edinburg, Texas, 78539.
Funeral services were under the direction of Memorial Funeral Home in Edinburg.