As lifelong devoted pastor, educator, activist and community leader, Tomas T. Alejo, 74, passed away on October 9 in Phoenix, Arizona after a 10-year battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his children, wife and other family members.
Tomas left a legacy of fighting for social and political change in Watsonville and Phoenix, Arizona. He was born on March 16, 1946 in the Southern Texas border region of Weslaco to a humble migrant farmworker family. They migrated from South Texas to California in the 1950s where they worked in the Salinas, Santa Clara, Central and Pajaro Valleys picking crops and settled roots in Watsonville in 1965.
Tomas attended Gonzales High School and graduated from Gilroy High School in 1965. From 1966-1968, he proudly served our nation in the United States Army during the Vietnam War.Tomas obtained his teaching credential from San Jose State University and taught for 24 years at the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Rehabilitation Center in Watsonville. There, he taught inmates the trade of auto body and paint to help them positively transform their lives and have better employment opportunities upon release. He also taught the auto body and paint class for six years at Hartnell College in Salinas.
Tomas was also a lifelong pastor for the Apostolic Church, served five years doing missionary work in the poorest parts of South Texas and Mexico with his family, and later co-founded Hope Ministries Church in Watsonville. He was heavily involved in many community events and activities in Watsonville throughout his life, including numerous political elections and policy efforts, advocating for the establishment of Pajaro Valley High School, starting the first Watsonville National Night Out in 1998, and co-founding the Annual Watsonville Peace and Unity March to end gang and domestic violence in 1994. Tomas was a contract negotiator for the United Farm Workers in the late 1970s and was invited to lead the opening prayer at the State Capitol in Sacramento in 2014 for the Cesar Chavez Day Ceremony.
During his retirement in Phoenix, Tomas was heavily involved in protests defending immigrants against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and volunteered in the successful recall effort against State Senator Russell Pearce, author of the draconian, anti-immigrant Arizona law SB1070. He was also always fond of helping the homeless and less fortunate. In biblical tradition, Alejo deeply believed in defending the poor and most vulnerable in our communities.
Tomas leaves behind his wife Irma Villarreal of Phoenix and five children: clinical social worker Tomas Alejo III of Washington DC, Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo of Salinas, educator Ruth Alejo of San Pedro, store manager Isaac Alejo of Salinas, store manager Avrum Alejo of Glendale, Arizona and step-daughter Anna Martinez of Buckeye, Arizona, daughter-in-laws; Dulce Alejo and Jenn Laskin, and son-in-law Bjorn Dannov. He also leaves behind his sisters Paula Alejo Macias and Socorro Lopez Alejo, brothers Albert, Eddie, Rafael and Joshua Alejo, grandchildren Briana Alejo, Chris Ramirez, Briana Gonzalez and Isaac Gonzalez, and great-granddaughter Amayah Alejo Kimmell of Salinas. He is preceded by his parents Tomas Sr. and Margarita, sisters Irma and Consuelo and brother Gilbert.
Due to space limitations pursuant COVID-19 restrictions, a public viewing will take place at Mehl’s Chapel in Watsonville on Sunday, Oct. 18 from 4:00-6:00 pm and his burial will take place on the following day, Oct. 19 at Pajaro Valley Memorial Park at 11:00am. The public is invited to participate in these two events.
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