A shining light in the Hispanic community has been extinguished. Betty Rodriguez, a full-time volunteer and hard-working fundraiser for countless Fresno organizations, died early Monday after battling cancer. She was 83.
She left behind a legacy of empowering young Hispanic women, culture and education, friends said Monday.
Born and raised in Fresno, Mrs. Rodriguez was a graduate of Edison High School. In 1950 she married her high school sweetheart, Armando Rodriguez, who would later become a Superior Court judge. Angie Cisneros, a friend and fellow advocate for Hispanic women, said the couple was very active in the Fresno community.
"Once he became judge it was difficult for him to get involved in things," she said. "But Betty, that didn't stop her."
Cisneros said she met Mrs. Rodriguez in the early 1970s at a Mexican American Political Association meeting. From that day forward, Cisneros said, Mrs. Rodriguez pushed her to stay active in the community. Mrs. Rodriguez served as a volunteer for various organizations, including the League of Women Voters, the Girl Scouts, Arte Americas, Ladies Aid for Retarded Citizens, Friends of the Library and the Fresno-Torreon Sister City Committee. As a founder of the League of Mexican American Women, Mrs. Rodriguez created an annual event to raise scholarship money for youth: the Fiesta Navidena Fashion Show.
"In the last 35 years I would say we have raised well over $250,000," Cisneros said.
Cisneros said Mrs. Rodriguez's inspiration for starting the fashion show was to put the Mexican-American community in a new light.
"She was a woman who really, really felt that people did not appreciate the Mexican culture," she said.
Nene Casares, also a supporter of Arte Americas, LARC and the League of Mexican American Women, said Mrs. Rodriguez was unmatched in her ability to sell tickets for fundraisers.
"She sold tickets like no one else you have ever seen," she said. "No one could say no to Betty."
In May, the Rodriguezes were honored for their community service at the 12th annual Latino Legends of the 20th Century dinner.
After battling uterine cancer for about a year, Mrs. Rodriguez reached stage four about a month ago, Cisneros said. Dolly Arredondo, who had been Mrs. Rodriguez's friend for four decades, said she took notes and discussed how she'd put the fashion show together this year, even as her health deteriorated.
"Betty was the type of person that wouldn't believe she was sick," Cisneros said. "She did not want people to worry about her."
Mrs. Rodriguez's friends agree that her big heart and selfless service will be missed by many in Fresno.
"Because of her, this community is a much better place," Casares said.
Born: Feb. 11, 1929
Died: Nov. 12, 2012
Survivors: Husband, Armando Rodriguez, 83
Occupation: Full-time volunteer
Services: To be determined
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