Family, friends gathering to honor San Benito’s M.L. Garcia

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SAN BENITO — Family and friends are coming together to honor M.L. Garcia, a former San Benito school board trustee treasured as a teacher who helped her students’ characters shine.

Garcia, 70, who won a seat on the school board in 2017 after her teaching career, died earlier this week.

On Monday, family and friends are gathering for a visitation service from 2 to 9 p.m., holding a rosary at 7 p.m.

On Tuesday, her family’s holding a funeral Mass at 10 a.m. at St. Theresa Catholic Church.

Garcia, who taught social studies at the former San Benito Junior High School and later at Miller Jordan Middle School, held a deep love for the school district where her brother, the late S.R. Garcia, served as its longtime police chief.

“Our San Benito CISD family is mourning the loss of an esteemed colleague and friend, Mary Lou Garcia, a longtime educator and former school board trustee,” Isabel Gonzalez, the district’s spokeswoman, stated. “‘Ms. M.L.,’ as she was called by her students and colleagues, will be dearly missed. Her impact on our educational community was immeasurable.”

For years, her nephew Jack Garcia served as a district administrator while building a career that led him to become San Benito’s mayor.

Earlier this week, the nephew she called “Jacko” recalled her nurturing belief in him.

“My aunt was always supportive of me,” Garcia, who serves as director of the La Feria school district’s 21st Century Grant program, recalled.

M.L. Garcia

“She meant the world to us,” he said. “When I think of her, I think of her long years of service as an educator.”

During his years in school, Garcia saw his aunt forge her students’ characters, teaching them to believe in themselves.

“That’s what stands out for me,” he said. “As a student, and later an educator, I saw her make an impact on many students lives. We’re very, very thankful for the time she was with us.”

For days, her friends have been filling Facebook’s pages with their memories.

Like many of her former students, Ariel Cruz-Vela, the San Benito school board’s vice president, remembered “Ms. M.L.” helping mold her into a strong young woman.

“If you knew me at Miller Jordan Middle school, you would know Ms. M.L. has been a huge part of my life,” she posted on Facebook.

Like a generation of students, Cruz-Vela remembered how Garcia’s PALs program helped temper her strengths.

“She took me under her wing after my first PALs event then she let me do the morning announcements everyday,” she posted. “But more than anything, she instilled a sense of confidence in me.”

“As an educator, she cared deeply for her students and genuinely wanted them to succeed,” she wrote. “She was an amazing person with a servant’s heart.

She enjoyed seeing her students grow into their own and she would yell at you from across the room if she ever saw you in public. I am grateful for all the memories that I have with her — from the Schlitterbahn trips, the bowling alleys, the end-of-the-year lock-ins at Miller Jordan to our conversations as I got older. It hurts that I will never hear her say, ‘Ay, my Mums,’ but I am blessed that I was one of her ‘kids.’ She left an impact on me and this community. She will be greatly missed.”