Remembering Helen Fabela Chavez: Sign the online condolence card to the Chavez family

June 8, 2016


Keene, Calif.—Helen Fabela Chavez, 88, who played a vital role helping her husband give birth to what became the first enduring farm workers union in U.S. history—and sustained Cesar Chavez during the 31 years he led the United Farm Workers of America—passed away on Monday, June 6, at a Bakersfield hospital surrounded by many her seven surviving children, 31 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

Helen, a humble girl from Delano, used her fierce determination to help change the lives of thousands of farm workers and millions of others who were inspired by La Causa. Born Helen Fabela on Jan. 21, 1928 in the Imperial Valley town of Brawley, her family lived into a converted horse barn outside McFarland before moving to Delano. She met Cesar in the mid-1940s, they were married in 1948 after his discharge from the U.S. Navy and they had eight children: Fernando, Sylvia, Linda, Eloise, Anna, Paul, Elizabeth and Anthony.

Cesar and Helen left a comfortable middle-class life in East Los Angeles in 1962, and moved back to Delano to begin organizing farm workers. Enduring greats hardship, Helen often had to raise the children by herself while Cesar was on the road. She returned to fieldwork while Cesar organized up and down California’s vast Central Valley; on weekends Cesar and some of the older children joined her.

Quiet and humble but fiercely determined and strong willed, Helen didn’t speak in public or talk with reporters, but she held deep convictions. In September 1965, while members of Cesar’s young Latino union debated whether or not to join a grape strike begun that month by members of a largely Filipino union, Helen in her quiet, no-nonsense way, settled the debate by asking, “Are we a union or not?”

Her consistent humility, selflessness, quiet heroism and fiery perseverance were at the heart of the movement she helped build.

For more on Helen F Chavez please go to: Full News Advisory

*** Helen’s legacy has affected so many people. We ask that you please share your personal memories of Helen with us  or a message to the Chavez family by leaving a “reply” below. Viva Helen F. Chavez!


Remembering Richard Chavez: Richard Chavez, 81, Cesar’s younger brother, helped build the UFW from its earliest days. Please read and post your personal memories.

July 28, 2011

Richard Chavez proudly displaying a lug of grapes emblazoned with the union label from the Larson ranch in California's Coachella Valley, which had just signed a UFW contract in 1970, after 5 years of strikes & boycotts. ***NOTE: This photo may not be reproduced without the permission of the photographer, Bob Fitch.

They grew up during the Depression, inseparable and as close as brothers can be on their small family homestead in the North Gila River Valley outside Yuma, Ariz. When the family lost the farm, they became migrant farm workers and labored beside each other as children in California’s fields, orchards and vineyards in the 1930s and 1940s. By the early 1960s, Richard Chavez, then a journeymen carpenter, was dedicating most of his free time after work and on weekends helping his brother, Cesar Chavez, organize what would become the United Farm Workers of America.

Richard Chavez spent the next three decades working full time with the farm worker movement. He suddenly passed away at 81, of complications from surgery in a Bakersfield hospital on Wednesday, July 27, 2011.

He designed the stylized black Aztec eagle that later became the union’s world-renowned symbol in 1962. The next year, Cesar convinced Richard to put up his house as collateral for a loan to start a credit union for farm workers. In 1966, Richard gave up carpentry to dedicate all of his time to the movement, earning $5 a week like Cesar and other movement staff. He was the first full time staff person for the non-profit organization that is now the Cesar Chavez Foundation, providing extensive social services to farm workers.

Richard was born in 1929, two years after his brother, Cesar, on the family homestead near Yuma. The two brothers left farm labor in 1949, spending a year working together in lumber mills around Crescent City, Calif. In 1950, Richard moved back to San Jose, where in 1951 he entered the carpenters union apprenticeship program. He worked as a framer building suburban housing tracks before moving to Delano. There he worked on both commercial and residential projects, including schools and freeway overpasses. Richard began his activism with Cesar in the Community Service Organization, then the most effective Latino civil rights group in California, in 1952, and was president of the Delano CSO chapter, which he also helped form.

His varied duties with the UFW over the years included long stretches organizing the farm workers’ successful boycotts of California table grapes and other products in New York and Detroit during the 1960s and ’70s. He was in charge of administrating union contracts in 1970, and later negotiated UFW agreements and oversaw union bargaining. Richard was first elected to the UFW executive board in 1973. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, he also oversaw construction and helped build most of the major structures on the farm workers’ “Forty Acres” complex outside Delano, including its coop gas station, union office and hall, and health clinic.

Richard retired from the union in 1983, but always remained very active with the movement, fulfilling public speaking engagements and serving as an active board member of both the Cesar Chavez Foundation and Dolores Huerta Foundation. He also worked building and rehabilitating multi- and single-family housing, including affordable housing projects for the Chavez foundation, in the 1980s. He obtained his state contractors license and built a large housing community in Tehachapi and custom homes in Los Angeles during the 1990s. A dedicated researcher of his family’s history, Richard was the driving force behind a two-day Chavez family reunion that in October 2010 gathered more than 300 family members from across the nation and around the world at the National Chavez Center at Keene, Calif., where his brother is buried.

Chavez foundation President Paul F. Chavez and UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez expressed shock and condolences to all members of Richard Chavez’s family.

Richard had six children with his first wife, Sally Chavez: Richard Jr (who preceded him in death), Frederico, Dorothy, Rebecca, Susana and Guadalupe. He had four children with his long-time partner, Dolores Huerta: Juana, Ricky, Maria Elena and Camilia.

Funeral services are as follows:

* Sunday at 7 p.m. there will be a procession from the Agbayani Villiage on the grounds of the farm workers’ “Forty Acres” complex at the corner of Garces Hwy. and Mettler Ave. just west of Delano to the union hall in the Roy Ruether building, also at the Forty Acres for a Rosary and an all-night vigil.

* On Monday at 9 a.m. a Mass of the Resurrection will be held (9am to 11 am) at 40 acres (31068 Garces Hwy., Delano, CA) immediately followed by a reception (11 am to 3 pm).

– end –

*** Richard’s legacy has affected so many people. We ask that you please share your personal memories of  Richard with us by leaving a “reply” below. Viva Richard Chavez!

We have also put together a flickr photo group.  If you are a flickr member please join our group and add your photos at:

News clips on Richard Chavez can be found at:

Remembering Zeferina Perez

September 11, 2009

 Zeferina Perez

 Sad News:

Long time supporter and UFW organizer Zeferina Perez passed away on September 9, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. 

Zeferina’s son Angel passed away on 6/28/09 and her daughter Linda, passed away on 8/15/09.  Zeferina  suffered a stroke on  8/19/09 after her daughter passed away and was in   Merced Nursing & Rehabilitation , but  was taken home by her daughter Maria last Friday, 9/4/09. She took ill on 9/9/09 and was taken to the hospital where she passed away at 11:00 a.m.

Zeferina  was a long time organizer for the UFW and was always ready to do whatever she was asked to help the union. She worked in many campaigns too numerous to mention here.
(Click to read a Jan. 2009 article about Zeferina)


7:00 P.M., THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2009
13145 Le Grand Rd.,  LeGrand, CA

10:00 A.M., FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2009
13145 Le Grand Rd.,  LeGrand, CA
We ask that you please share your personal memories of  Zeferina with us by leaving a “reply” below. If you have a photos of Zepherina, please share them by sending them to

May She Rest in Peace ┼

Zeferina was a great warrior. She had a tremendous passion, faith and work ethic. Zeferina’s dedication and commitment was an inspiration to me. I will always remember her contagious smile, her Si Se Puede attitude and her tireless efforts on behalf of the union and farm workers.

Que Viva Zeferina Perez!

— UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez

Cesar was always embarrassed being singled out for praise because he knew there were so many others who made great sacrifices for La Causa. These were men and women who went mostly unrecognized but who also found meaning in their lives by selflessly giving themselves for others. Zeferina was one of those very special servants. She labored relentlessly in her quiet and simple ways, never seeking credit or fame. May Zeferina now enjoy the rewards she has so richly earned. Que en paz descanse.

–Helen Chavez and the Chavez Family

Remembering Our Long Time Friend, Senator Edward Kennedy

August 26, 2009

Senator Kennedy was a champion for farm workers.  The Farm Worker Movement expresses our deepest condolences to the Kennedy Family. Click to read resolution from UFW’s August 2008 Convention honoring our longtime friendship.

Please share your personal memories of  Senator Kennedy by leaving a “reply” below. Viva Kennedy!

United Farm Workers of America:
Why we loved Sen. Ted Kennedy

By UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez and
Paul F. Chavez, President Cesar E Chavez Foundation

Since Sen. Edward M. Kennedy championed the cause of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement after picking up the mantle from Sen. Robert F. Kennedy following his assassination in 1968, no national political leader has more effectively and selflessly embraced the farm workers’ cause.

Year after year, Sen. Kennedy stood shoulder to shoulder with the farm workers in good times and bad during marches and rallies, political campaigns and legislative battles from the halls of the United States Senate to the dusty farm fields of California.

As United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta once said, Robert and Ted Kennedy “didn’t come to us and tell us what was good for us. All they said was, ‘What do you want? And how can I help?’ That’s why we love them.”

From helping convince Congress to end the infamous Bracero Program in 1964 to becoming the driving force in recent years behind the United Farm Workers’ historic AgJobs immigration reform bill in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Kennedy never failed to respond to the farm workers’ call for help.

In the last several years, Sen. Kennedy was a leading author of the landmark AgJobs bill, negotiated by the UFW and the nation’s agricultural industry to allow undocumented farm workers in this country to earn the permanent legal right to stay by continuing to work in agriculture.

The best way to honor Sen. Kennedy’s commitment and selflessness is to continue advancing the farm workers’ cause he unequivocally supported.

Comment by UFW Co-Founder Dolores Huerta

This is a great loss for the Latino community because Senator Kennedy was such a steadfast advocate and supporter of the the Latino community and farm workers specifically.

We should honor his memory by joining in the fight for universal health care and immigration reform.

Viva Ted Kennedy!

Recordando a Gustavo “Compis” Romero

June 9, 2009

compiscesarwebLa Noticia Triste: Un miembro del personal de la UFW por muchos anos, ha fallecido. Gustavo (Compis) Romero falleció el Jueves, 4 de Junio de 2009 a las 9:50 p.m. en Delano.

Un Servicio Memorial se llevara acabo el Domingo, 14 de Junio, 2009 a las 11:00  a.m. en Casa Hernandez donde el vivía por varios anos. La dirección del sitio es 200 So. Albany St. en Delano, CA. Por favor oprima aquí para RSVP si piensa asistir a los servicios.

Si puede asistir o no puede asistir, de todos modos,  le pedimos que compartan sus memorias personales de Compis, en dejando  una  respuesta abajo. Viva Compis!

“Cesar sabia que había muchos Cesar Chavezes en el movimiento — había muchos hombres y mujeres que habían hecho sacrificios inmensos y gran cosas consumadas, pero que nunca han recibido mucho reconocimiento. Gustavo (“Compis”) Romero fue una de esas figuras heroicas en La Unión de Campesinos. El nunca ondeó en su compromiso. El dio todo para la unión, y más, y esa devoción le dio significando a su vida. Compis dijo una vez, ‘El objetivo de la unión fue para que los campesinos puedan desahogarse de sus quejas y conseguir una justicia pequeña’. Compis pasó la vida haciendo que suceda. Nosotros lo extrañaremos bastante”. Helen Chávez

“Desde el día que él se unió para la huelga en los campos de lechuga del Valle de Salinas en 1970, Compis llegó a ser uno de esas personas generosas que dedicaron a sí mismo totalmente a la causa de los campesinos. Compis decía que Cesar le enseñaba el poder de dar a personas algo cuando usted no pide nada en regreso. Cesar y Compis compartieron mucho en común y ellos falsificaron una amistad cercana que duró para el resto de sus vidas. Ahora ellos son unidos una vez más juntos en fraternidad y solidaridad.”
Presidente de la Unión de Campesinos,Arturo S. Rodríguez

Remembering Gustavo “Compis” Romero

June 8, 2009

compiscesarwebSad News: Long time UFW staffer and close friend Gustavo “Compis” Romero passed away on Thursday 6/4/09 at 9:50pm in Delano.

Prayer services will be held on Sunday, June 14 at 11 am at Casa Hernandez at 200 S. Albany St, Delano, CA, 93215.  Please click here to RSVP if you are attending the service.

Whether or not you are able to attend, we ask that you please share your personal memories of  Compis with us by leaving a “reply” below. Viva Compis!

“Cesar knew there were many Cesar Chavezes in the movement–there  were many men and women who made huge sacrifices and accomplished great  things, but who never got much recognition. Gustavo (“Compis”) Romero was one  of those heroic figures in the United Farm Workers. He never wavered in his  commitment. He gave everything for the union, and more, and that devotion gave  meaning to his life. Compis once said, ‘The aim of the union was so  that farm workers could air their grievances and get a little justice.’ Compis  spent his life making it happen. We will miss him very much.”Helen Chavez

“From the day he walked out on strike in the Salinas Valley lettuce fields in 1970, Compis became one of those selfless people who totally dedicated themselves to the farm workers’ cause. Compis used to say Cesar taught him the power of giving people something when you don’t ask for anything in return. Cesar and Compis shared much in common and they forged a close friendship that lasted for the rest of their lives. Now they are once again united together in brotherhood and solidarity.”UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez