Rose Marie Soto, who wrote stories at Eastern Group Publications and her “Coast2Coast” blog about the all the folks of East Los Angeles, passed away on September 4, 2009, from a battle with cancer she kept secret from friends and colleagues. She was lauded and praised by a memorial audience of over 200 people, including relatives, close friends and professional colleagues.
The memorial service witnessed a throng of friends and relatives lining up to the podium recounting stories about what a great experience it was to be related to and loved by Rose Soto, including poignant and teary-eyed stories by some of her closest friends.
“Rose Soto had one of the most unique senses of humor I have ever known,” said Helen Hernandez, one of her closest friends and confidants, and founder and President of the IMAGIN Awards organization, which annually honors Latino performers.
Recounting an incident where Hernandez had invited about ten of her closest girlfriends to stay with her at a hotel in Washington, DC, the night before a special conference, which required the woman having to share beds with each other. Hernandez remembered speaking with Soto the following morning and repeated the first thing that came out of her mouth:
“Wow! I can’t believe it; I just slept with Dolores Huerta.”
Dolores Huerta, nationally renowned civil rights activist, and the co-founder with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers’ Union, was one of Hernandez’ special invited guests at the DC hotel.
Many of the emotional comments from mostly family members recounted stories ranging from Soto’s caring and nurturing persona, to her rigidness when it came to giving advice to her children and grandchildren, whom she pushed hard to go and stay in school. One of the stories concerning Soto’s professional career came from renowned space planner and designer Alicia Enciso who told the audience that Rose Soto was more than just your average reporter at a small newspaper chain.
“Rose Soto used her writing skills like famous and innovative artists use their paint brush,” said Enciso.
“Rose Soto presented a glowing canvass of Latino community members to the public, whether unknown or famous, with a broad stroke of dignity and honor,” added Enciso.
“We must preserve and republish many of the stories she wrote about our community, so generation after generation of our youth will be able see the prolific manner she chronicled every aspect of our history, and the contributions we as Hispanics have made to make this a better and greater country.”
Soto worked for Eastern Group Publications for over fifteen years and covered practically every story in the greater Los Angeles community. But her most endearing pieces involved the day to day activities of the community residents of East Los Angeles, including their weddings, quiencinieras, baptismal, news about those in the military, job promotions, new hiring’s, all community groups and organizations and also gave boost to emerging Latino talent.
“One day, a few years back, Rose and I were talking about what we wanted our tombstones to read,” said Dolores Sanchez, Publisher of the largest chain of Hispanic-owned Bilingual newspapers in the U.S., who said Rose Soto, was a writer who never sought fame or fortune, who could have worked for any newspaper in the country, but who merely wanted to present the Latino community with dignity and respect.
“I’ll never forget her answer; one that says who Rose Soto truly was; a mother, a sister, a friend, and a writer who loved to tell stories about her community, a woman whom we will never be able to forget,” said Sanchez, holding back her tears, then broke into laughter as she repeated Soto’s answer:
“She said what she wants on her tombstone is ‘That’s all she wrote!’”
The audience also broke out into raucous laughter, knowing that Soto was not only known for her great writing skills, but for an infectious laugh that touched the lives of all the people who knew, loved and admired her work.