Special to the NEWS
Blanca Sanchez Vela will be posthumously honored as a recipient of the 2014 Freddy Fender Humanitarian Awards – this because of her outstanding service record and lifelong dedication to public service.
Vela died on Feb. 19 of this year.
She was a certified teacher and began her career with the San Benito Consolidated Independent School District. She attended, and completed college by taking the bus from Harlingen to Brownsville to attend classes at Texas Southmost College, where she obtained her Bachelor’s and her Master’s degrees.
In 1999, Vela became the first woman mayor of Brownsville.
Prior to this, she served on the Brownsville Public Utilities Board and rose through the ranks to become chairperson.
She was the first woman to hold a seat on the Brownsville National Bank’s Board of Directors.
As co-founder of the Brownsville Public Library Foundation, she was instrumental in generating funds to build a second library in the Southmost area of Brownsville, a portion of the city known for having many under-privileged children who have limited access to books.
She wanted to have a third library built in the north side of Brownsville.
In addition to her dedication to community service, Vela was a wife and mother.
She was noted as humble and believed in making life better for those less fortunate.
Mrs. Vela’s generosity was well known in the community. Together with her husband, both believed education transformed lives.
Following her husband’s death, she established the Vela Memorial Scholarship Fund and the Blanca and Filemon Vela Endowed Scholarship at the University of Texas at Brownsville.
The 2014 Freddy Fender Humanitarian Awards was named after Baldemar Huerta of San Benito, also known as Freddy Fender – a rock and roll and country musician who found fame in the 1960s and 70s with the hits “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” and “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” as well as being a member of the Texas Tornados super group. Fender – also known for his humanitarianism – was a Grammy award-winner whose fame reached international heights, even landing him on television in an episode of Dukes of Hazzard.
The awards ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 9, at the Texas State Technical College Cultural Arts Center on 1902 North Loop 499 in Harlingen.