Gonzalo "Corky" Perez, an East Los Angeles community activist who aided young people and boosted the careers of such Latino politicians as Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre and state Democratic chairman Art Torres, has died. He was 67.
Perez died Monday in a Glendale convalescent home after a series of strokes and complications from diabetes, which he had for many years.
A journalist and insurance executive, Perez was far better known for his community volunteer work than for his professional achievements.
"This individual was unselfish in giving to his community," said Raul Nunez, who worked with Perez in political causes for more than 20 years. "Corky was always giving. That is his legacy."
"This guy was a very special person sent to us. The whole thing of this man was not only helping but teaching. You learned from this man," said Terry Castaneda, former executive director of the East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, which Perez helped organize.
Perez's twin goals of helping Latino youth and increasing Latino political power came together in 1971 when he unsuccessfully ran for City Council against the incumbent Arthur K. Snyder. Perez, long an organizer of youth baseball teams, campaigned on the need for greater recreational facilities in East Los Angeles to keep young people out of gangs.
He later established the East Los Angeles Scholarship Foundation, raising money and providing scholarships to any Latino youth enrolling in college, regardless of grades or other criteria.
Forgoing any further tries for public office himself, Perez continued his efforts to increase the political clout of Latinos by organizing NEWS of America. The group encourages Latinos to seek elective office and helps the candidates raise money and campaign.
"It just means that Latinos, and Mexicanos in particular, are everywhere," Perez said, explaining the organization's name to The Times in 1991. He added that it had nothing to do with his old profession of journalism. "North, East, West and South. Hence the name, NEWS for America," he said.
In addition to writing for East Los Angeles newspapers, Perez most recently was associate publisher of Hispanic Marketing for Northeast Newspapers of Los Angeles.
He is survived by two sons, a daughter and several sisters.
Services are planned at 11 a.m. Monday at Victory Outreach Center, 2713 Walnut Grove Ave., Rosemead.
Any memorial donations can be sent to the East Los Angeles Scholarship Foundation in care of the Glendale Federal Bank of East Los Angeles.