Family and friends remember San Joaquin councilmember after passing away unexpectedly

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SAN JOAQUIN, California (KSEE) – Respected San Joaquin city councilmember Jose Ornelas was remembered at the Veteran’s Memorial Hall in San Joaquin Friday, after passing away unexpectedly July 19th.

During the ceremony, colleagues, friends and family shared a legacy that will never be forgotten. The memorial was also live on Zoom and started with a video of special moments of his life.

Ornelas reportedly died from a COVID-19-related illness he may have contracted in Mexico.

“Maybe it’s a bit of comfort to know that his life, his contributions to his community, his family will forever be ingrained in the permanent written history of the United States of America,” said representative T.J. Cox, from California’s 21st district.

Ornelas was born in Mexico, moving to the U.S. when he was a teenager in pursuit of the American dream and began as a farm worker. 

He believed education is a priority, Ornelas obtained several degrees –including a bachelor’s degree at Fresno State.

“I’m so proud, like not many people go back to where they all started to help their community out. No one knows where San Joaquin is, even people in Fresno, people are like, where is that? And he just always came back and made sure that this town gets what it deserves,” said Shayla Robles, daughter of Jose Ornelas.

Ornelas was a San Joaquin councilmember since 2014 and helped to combat issues like poverty, injustice and contaminated drinking water.  

His wife, Nadia, says he was a man who faced adversity head on and when he was told there were people who opposed him he would reply:  

“No, I don’t care. I will continue because when I was born they had already given all of the fear away leaving none for me, so I don’t have any fears.”

Jose Ornelas

Ornelas was recently elected to the Fresno County Democratic Central committee. He is survived by his wife and his five children.

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