Gerard Edward ‘Gary’ Cavazos was born in East Palo Alto on November 9, 1949; he was the oldest of two brothers, Tommy and Edgar. Gary loved his family and loved inviting friends home to meet them. Even as a college student, Gary still sat on his dad’s lap.
Gary was one of the locals who was accepted into Stanford, eventually acquiring his Masters in Communications from the university. He also was an instructor on labor history for the Chicano Fellows Program.
Along the educational way, Gary was an active participant in the political activism at Stanford and in the cities of Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. He was one of the founders of the Stanford chapter of MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlá), a Chicano student organization fighting bigotry against people of Mexican descent. As part of this fight, the members of MEChA. rejected the term ‘Mexican-American’ as assimilationist, replacing it with the self-defined ‘Chicanismo’, reflecting respect and pride for one’s ethnic and cultural background. “Thus, the (Chicanx) acts with confidence and with a range of alternatives in the political world. She/he is capable of developing an effective ideology through action" (M.E.C.H.A. history page). Gary and MEChA were firm supporters of the United Farmworkers Union. MEChA was also anti-war, as many of the drafted soldiers came from their ranks.
Gary and I met through our mutual field of Communications and became good friends. I worked in the African and Afro-American Studies Program, which had a mimeograph machine, so Gary often dropped by to use our resources and to solicit support from Dr. Drake in recruiting additional Chicanx professors and students. At one point, an anti-war demonstration was about to kick off but it was a chilly day. Gary and I ran into each other. He asked if I was going to the demo. I wasn’t because Dr. Drake was bringing in a lecturer and I needed to prep for the program. I was wearing a really cool white denim Levis jacket, and Gary asked to borrow it. Never saw the jacket again, but I got invited over to his parents’ house, where I was treated to chicken mole, rice, refried beans and tortillas. Gary’s mom taught me how to make the refried beans.
During this period, Gary was married to Susie, a devout Catholic. I would introduce them as ‘the Catholic and the Commie’. Gary and Susie liked to whip up a pot of Mexican hot chocolate on a cold winter night. I was telling a friend about the chocolate and, being a chocolate-lover, she wanted to try some. So I took her over to Gary’s only to find he wasn’t home. Not to be deterred, I found an open window in the back, climbed in, found a note saying where Gary and Susie were, and called them. They came back to their house (with another couple) and made hot chocolate for all.
Eventually, Susie became overwhelmingly Catholic and the two divorced. After dating a bit, Gary remarried to a woman named Judy. Both worked at Stanford, Gary in Human Resources and Judy in Stores. The HR position proved soul-sucking and caused Gary to develop an alcoholism problem. He eventually left Stanford and took control of his alcoholism. He and Judy adopted two lovely baby girls. They flirted with the idea of moving to Mexico for a few years, spending vacations at properties down there, but moved to Oregon instead. Another divorce, but Gary stayed in the area to be near his girls.