Tony Ruiz passed away peacefully at his home on Feb. 3. Tony was born in Hollister on June 15, 1938 and spent his entire life working to make our community a better place to live for everyone.
Tony attended Sacred Heart, San Benito High School, San Benito Junior College, and earned a degree from Cal State Fresno. He also spent a summer at Columbia University in New York City studying linguistics. Tony was a strong proponent of public education and spent his career working to ensure that local residents had access to the highest quality schools.
Tony began his career in education at Madera High School, where he taught for 5 years. He then returned to Hollister and began teaching Spanish and Southwest Studies at Gavilan College. He spent over 25 years at Gavilan where he touched the lives of countless students.
Tony was also active in local politics for over 50 years. He was the first Latino elected official in San Benito County, serving two terms on the San Benito High School Board of Trustees. He also served one term on the Gavilan College Board of Trustees.
Perhaps Tony’s greatest political contributions were to the local San Benito County Democratic Party. Tony was the longest serving chair of the Democratic Central Committee, overseeing a tremendous period of growth in Democratic Party voter registration locally in the 1980s and 90s. Tony also encouraged many local leaders to run for office – he managed their campaigns and provided strategic advice. Under Tony’s leadership, San Benito County was transformed into a Democratic stronghold and became a model for Democratic organizations across California.
Tony was a driving force behind many local initiatives throughout his career and championed efforts that led to improved local road conditions, more affordable housing, strong environmental protections, and was a vigorous advocate for sustainable planning. He will be remembered as a fighter and a powerful voice for good in our community. His contributions to San Benito County will live on for generations.
It should be noted that Tony was a family man. He loved spending time with his family and friends and telling amusing stories about those he cared about. He enjoyed traveling with his wife Kathy and was constantly mentoring young people. He was also passionate about classic cars.
Tony is survived by his wife Kathy Ruiz, son Miguel Ruiz, daughter Tere Wall, granddaughters Katie, Melanie, Rachel, and Sara, his sister Josephine Aguirre, and his great-granddaughters and nephews and nieces. He was preceded in death by his parents Gregorio and Antonia Ruiz, his sisters Erlinda Carrillo, Eleanor Diaz, and Sally Zuniga, brothers Elidoro, Clemente, and Chapo Ruiz, and granddaughter Crista. He is also survived by Kathy’s four children, Wendy Scherbart, Allene Zanger, Joe C. Zanger, Gretchen Blatter, and eight grandchildren.
All are welcome to attend a celebration of Tony’s life at San Juan Oaks on Sunday, Feb 18 at 11:00 a.m. Donations to support youth programs can be made in Tony’s memory to the Community Foundation for San Benito County at 829 San Benito St #200, Hollister, CA 95023.