Prominent restaurateur, local Latino community leader dies

Marshall Chavez (courtesy photo).

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Marshall Chavez, owner of the El Sombrero restaurant and prominent Latino community leader in West Michigan, has died.

Chavez died on Friday at the age of 82, according to his obituary, which says he’s survived by his wife of 57 years, four children, 12 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

In 1969, Chavez open the El Sombrero restaurant in Grand Rapids after he and his family settled in the city nearly two decades prior, his obituary reads. Chavez was born in Cuero, Texas in 1935 but upon moving to West Michigan attended Grand Rapids Community College, formerly Grand Rapids Junior College, and Western Michigan University.

Chavez served in the National Guard for 10 years. He also participated in boycotts and donated profits from his restaurant to support the United Farm Workers Union and UFW West Michigan Chapter, which also said he attended the first UFW convention where Caesar Chavez was elected president of the union, his obituary reads.

Among his other accomplishments, Chavez was the first ever recipient of the distinguished “Agulia” Award. He served on a committee with Lupe Ramos-Montigny and Levi Rickert to commemorate Grandville Avenue as Caesar E. Chavez Boulevard. He also served on the Greater Grand Rapids Housing Corp., the Mexican Festival Board, the board for the local Economic Development Corp. for the cities of Grand Rapids and Wyoming, the Dire Ives, the Democratic Executive Community for Kent County, among several others.

Chavez received the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Heritage in Business Award in 2012.

Visitation is scheduled for Thursday, April April 27 1-3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. at the Pederson Funeral Home in Rockford.

In lieu of flower, Chavez’s family is requesting contributions be made to any one of the following:

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