Tomas Gonzales. Photo courtesy his family.
(Feb. 4, 2021, 11:10 p.m.) -- My husband, Tomas Gonzales, died February 2, 2021, at home at 12:30 in the morning. He lost his battle with cancer and was 74 years old. 27 years ago, I met him and fell in love with him when we were both federal agents in San Francisco.
He was the son of a Blackfoot Indian and a Mexican farmworker. His fatherís family crossed the border when his father was the age of five. Tomasí parents met and married in Fort Collins, Colorado. They moved to Los Angeles with family to a warmer climate and for more job opportunities.
In Los Angeles, Tomas' father was a short order cook specializing in gravy by day, and by night, he was a bass guitar player in a mariachi band. At the end of his life, Tomasí father owned a large house, a Los Angeles bar, and restaurant. He was a self-made man.
At the end of her short life, Tomasí mother was a hospital cafeteria worker. Mostly she was a full-time mom. She fought tirelessly throughout her life to assist women and children. She gave parenting classes in her home to young mothers in the neighborhood. When she died of cancer at age 46, her family was forever devastated.
Tomas was the third oldest son of six children. He was best friends with his baby brother, Leonard Gonzales. As brothers, they were rivals. As best friends, they were compatriots in their fight for the civil rights of poor people.
In his heart, Tomas was forever a brown boy from the ghetto with a hole in his shoe. He was a devout Catholic, but he barely spoke a word about it. Instead, he lived his faith by setting a good example.
He kept company with unpretentious people be they great or small. He was mining for hearts of gold in people. He was disinterested in pedigrees. Instead, he looked for people like himself who would use their skills to help poor people.
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|When I first met him 27 years ago, he was a whistleblower at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He complained to HUD that there were not nearly enough Spanish speaking agents to service HUD cases. Shortly thereafter, HUD increased the number of Spanish speaking agents servicing their workload.
During the middle of our courtship, I had a problem with IRS discriminating against me based on my disability. The IRS had mishandled my medical information. Tomas took me under his wing. He intervened on my behalf when the IRS was exerting pressure on me. As a result of my case, the IRS changed the way it handled employee medical information. Tomas helped me to exit the IRS with full benefits. I am forever grateful to Tomas for his help.
Moving from San Francisco in 1996, we first landed for a couple of years in a mobile home park in Palmdale, living close to Tomasí brother Jerry and Jerryís wife, Toni.
Jerry was a great influence on Tomas. Besides being his big brother, Jerry and Tomas were both activists in the Chicano civil rights movement. They were also union officials and were active in employee unions throughout their lifetimes.
Toni survived the death of Jerry, and now survives the death of Tomas. She is one of Tomasí closest family members. She is also a historian for Tomas and our family.
Toni is a well-known disabilities advocate in her own right. She taught us the ropes as we advocated for rights for our disabled daughter Bernice. We are forever grateful to Toni for her help.
While we were living in Palmdale, Tomas worked for a nonprofit which assisted young fathers housed in Los Angeles County youth camps to stay connected with their children. He was proud of this work.
When it was time to go house shopping, we decided we wanted to live near the beach, like we did in San Francisco. That is why we bought our first home in the Wrigley.
In 1999, Tomas got a job as a bilingual special investigator for the City of Long Beach Citizen Police Complaint Commission (CPCC). He worked there until he was wrongfully terminated in 2006.
At the time he was fired, Tomas was reporting to City managers widespread corruption at the CPCC. These facts were later affirmed in a jury trial at Long Beach Superior Court during his 2018 whistleblower case.
In 2000, his daughter Bernice came to live with us. At the same time Tomas was fighting his legal battle with the CPCC, he was also struggling to get the necessary medical support so that Bernice could live with us.
When I first met him 27 years ago, he was a whistleblower at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He complained to HUD that there were not nearly enough Spanish speaking agents to service HUD cases. Shortly thereafter, HUD increased the number of Spanish speaking agents servicing their workload.
During the middle of our courtship, I had a problem with IRS discriminating against me based on my disability. The IRS had mishandled my medical information. Tomas took me under his wing. He intervened on my behalf when the IRS was exerting pressure on me. As a result of my case, the IRS changed the way it handled employee medical information. Tomas helped me to exit the IRS with full benefits. I am us.
During the time he worked at CPCC, he became a Central Area Planning Committee (CPAC) member representing LULAC. There, he actively campaigned against the eminent domain removal of poor Latinos from the First District. With his HUD and Spanish language skills, he advocated for poor Latinos.
For twelve years during his whistleblower litigation, Tomas was a pariah. He never lost faith that in the end the truth would be told. He never lost faith that he would be vindicated. He never forgot for one minute he was the last little guy standing with his finger in the dike. For this, he acknowledged that his family paid a heavy price. We think it was worth it.
About the time COVID hit, we finally had the medical care for Bernice, and we finally had the money to take vacations. Instead, during COVID, while taking cancer treatment, he sat at home doing even more civil rights work.
He assisted a mother with five children to get an alternative housing after one of her children was sexually assaulted in a HUD housing project.
He also assisted citizens in my hometown of Natchez, Mississippi to uncover and report widespread fraud and corruption there involving HUD funds. As a result, my hometown directly benefits from having known Tomas, as did most everybody. Tomas was generous to gift his knowledge of civil rights laws to others.
Since I have known Tomas, each step of the way, he has encouraged everybody to get an advanced education. He especially encouraged young people to go to law school. Many times, he helped students complete their school admissions and financial aid applications. He wrote letters of recommendation to their schools. Nothing pleased him more than when those he assisted went on to graduate and do well. He tasked me to continue this endeavor.
Tomas passed away literally with civil rights on his mind. My last cogent conversation was with Tomas the Saturday night before he died. He quoted me code citations for The Americans With Disabilities Act, which he enforced when he was a HUD agent. We then made a pact to get the ADA implemented in Mississippi, starting in my hometown of Natchez.
In addition, he left me with a long list of other civil rights issues he wants me to pursue. Besides getting the ADA implemented in Mississippi, he wants me to campaign for CPCC charter reform. He wants me to continue to actively assist poor people, including Spanish speaking Latinos. I am working on that.
i am honored to have known Tomas, and I am honored to be his significant other and wife for the past 27 years. He shaped my life for the better. He did not shy away from taking on stress when pursuing civil rights. I struggled to keep up with him as he conquered one hill after another. I am much improved personally having gone through the struggle with him.
Thank you for the kindness you have shown my beloved husband, Tomas Gonzales. Bernice, me, and the dogs miss him. Daisy misses his lap to sit on. Rosie misses Tomas feeding her his leftover corn chips. Bernice misses having her daddy to appeal her case to when she is sick of arguing with me.
I miss his boney hand. I miss his abundant locks of gray hair and his hazel eyes. I miss his energy. I miss bouncing my ideas off him. He was my sounding board. He was the guy who made sure I had a parachute on before I jumped off a cliff.
In addition to being survived by Bernice and me, Tomas is survived by his son Tom Jr., and his grandchildren, Zachary, Ryan, and McKenna.
Tomas was the kind of guy you could trust to do the right thing when nobody was looking. He made me proud to be a Gonzales! Such was the life and times of Tomas Gonzales. Yep, he was my man!
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