Rep. Edward Lopez Pastor was born on June 28, 1943 to Enrique and Margarita Pastor in Claypool.
He died on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at the age of 75 after suffering a heart attack while at dinner at a Phoenix restaurant with wife Verma.
Gov. Doug Ducey ordered flags across the state lowered to half-staff Nov. 28, and again on the day of his interment, in recognition of the long-lasting impact Pastor would leave on Arizona.
Nowhere is that impact felt more deeply than in Pastor’s own hometown.
His lifelong friend, Fred Barcón, talked to the Silver Belt about growing up with Pastor, who graduated from Miami High School in 1961.
Though Pastor was a year ahead of Barcón in school, the two played basketball together in CYO (Catholic Youth Organization).
“Our basketball team even beat the 1961-’62 Miami Vandal state championship team,” in a game played without coaches, he said.
“Eddie made his way through college on an Arizona Republic scholarship,” at a time when minorities weren’t fortunate enough to get many scholarships, Barcón said.
By delivering newspapers, Pastor became eligible for the scholarship of about $1,000 per year.
Pastor also worked in the college cafeteria for his meals at Arizona State University (ASU) when he discovered delivering papers did not earn him enough money to cover all expenses, Barcón said.
“Our parents worked in the mines and not in the best of conditions,” he told the Silver Belt. “They told us, ‘You are not working in the mines. Get your education.’”
Growing up focused, even as a freshman Pastor knew that he would have to stay focused all through high school and get good grades, Barcón said. “He was a model student.”
The first in his family to graduate from college, Pastor earned both a bachelors degree in chemistry in 1966 and a law degree in 1974 at ASU.
Pastor married his college sweetheart, Verma Mendez, who was from Superior. They met when Pastor was a sophomore and she was a freshman.
Barcón said that Pastor turned to politics after the death of his younger brother, Robert, the activist in the family who was killed in a car accident in Phoenix in 1975.
“Eddie fell right in and fought discrimination his whole life,” he said.
Pastor never forgot his roots, even as an attorney and a young congressman, Barcón said.
He would see Pastor when he would come home to visit family or during get togethers in the Valley.
And though Pastor attended George Washington School in Claypool, “he always did what he could for Bullion Plaza,” including helping to pay for a new roof on the building, Barcón said.
Asked what he wanted people to know most about his friend Pastor, Barcón replied, “Being a congressman never went to his head. He maintained a low profile but accomplished a lot.
“There’s that saying about speaking softly and carrying a big stick – that was Eddie Pastor.”
In his Nov. 28 statement, Ducey said that Pastor served 23 years in Congress, becoming the first Latino to represent Arizona in Congress.
Pastor was re-elected 11 times after winning a 1991 special election to fill the House seat vacated by the retirement of Morris K. Udall.
Before that, Pastor served three terms as a Maricopa County Supervisor, as an aide to Gov. Raul Castro, in numerous community roles and as a high school chemistry teacher, Ducey said.
In addition to his wife, Verma, Pastor is survived by two daughters, Yvonne Pastor and Phoenix City Councilwoman Laura Pastor; a sister Eleanor; and four grandchildren.
A public viewing for Pastor will be held from 6-9 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday, Dec. 6, at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, 4715 N. Central Ave., in Phoenix, with a rosary beginning at 7 p.m.
His Funeral Mass will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7 at the church, with burial immediately following at St. Francis Catholic Cemetery, 2033 N. 48th St., Phoenix.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to be made to the Ed Pastor Memorial Fund at the Arizona Community Foundation, 2201 E. Camelback Road, Suite 405B, Phoenix.