Photo by Jack GouldLast Saturday, the Weekly lost one of its most cherished friends. At 9:45 a.m., Josie Montoya, a founding member of the Anaheim community group United Neighborhoods, passed away in Brea after losing her battle against diabetes. She was 60.
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According to friends and family members, Montoya's passing was as peaceful as it was untimely. It certainly came as a shock to those who knew her as a profoundly optimistic person who remained active in her community over the years despite her increasingly poor health. As recently as last week, Montoya was taking telephone calls from her hospital bed in Brea, predicting that she'd be back home within a few weeks, getting back to what she liked best, being a leader who never stopped struggling to improve the lives of the people in her—and our—community.
From the Weekly's very inception more than six years ago, Montoya had been a crucial source and, indeed, a friend of the paper. For those who didn't know her, she was something akin to the unofficial mayor of Jeffrey-Lynne (now known as Hermosa Village), the working-class, predominantly Latino Anaheim neighborhood in the shadow of Disneyland. Among other things, she helped establish the neighborhood's first and only community center; provided literacy classes for local children; and even established a program that provides free food for hard-working, low-income parents, some of them Disneyland employees (see "Mouse Chow," Dec. 14, 2001).
While the Anaheim police department rewarded Montoya's efforts to bring professionalism to their ranks by spying on her and other Latino leaders in Anaheim (see "Anaheim Spooks," Oct. 6, 2001), even her harshest critics knew her as a passionate defender of her city. It was Montoya who ensured that the city's Jeffrey-Lynne revitalization project—which held its grand opening on March 19—wasn't simply an excuse for kicking out hundreds of poor residents, but rather a highly democratic process that brought residents and city officials together into a working relationship that many cynical skeptics, including the Weekly, thought would never happen.
There will never be another Josie Montoya, but there will always be her legacy: the hundreds of people, ourselves included, whose lives she touched. We will never forget her.