Manuel William Aguilar Jr., a proud pipefitter, community leader and family man, passed away on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, in Lubbock, Texas. He was age 77.
He was born on Nov. 12, 1942, in Brenham, Texas, eldest son of Manuel Guerra Aguilar and Irene Oliva Aguilar.
As a young boy, he spent some time living with his grandparents, Isidora and Lazaro Oliva, in Somerville, Texas, and in 1945 he joined his parents and moved to Lubbock and graduated from Lubbock High School in 1961.
As a teenager, he got involved in boxing and became a Golden Gloves National Champion, affectionately known as “Champino.”
On June 18, 1963, he married Lillie Garcia in Ogden, Utah, who he met at a dance at the Fair Park Coliseum. Settling in Lubbock, they began building a family that would include two sons and two daughters.
Mr. Aguilar began his career at Lubbock Manufacturing Co., and later Clark Manufacturing, where he helped organize a chapter of the United Auto Workers union, serving the Local as sergeant of arms and recording secretary in 1970.
After working as a union pipefitter throughout the 1970s, he became a cardholding member of Local 404 of the United Association of Pipefitters, Service Techs, Steamfitters, Sprinkler Fitters and Plumbers on Dec. 1, 1981, and he constructed power plants throughout the region.
He took great pride in his work, often saying, “Any power plant in the panhandle, all the way south to Earth, Texas, I helped build.” Driving around the cotton-growing region, if he passed a power plant, he’d remind family members, “See that cooling tower? I piped it.”
Committed to community, he was very active with the American G.I. Forum, a Mexican-American civil rights organization and helped start Lubbock’s tradition of hosting holiday visits from Santa’s cousin from the South Pole, “Pancho Clos” in 1970. He was active in Democratic Party politics and the Southwest Voter Registration Project. In 2018, he was awarded the Adelante Award for community activism by Los Hermanos Familia in Lubbock.
He was preceded in death by: his parents, Manuel Guerra Aguilar and Irene Oliva Aguilar; brothers Lazaro, Alfonso and Samuel Aguilar; and a grandson, Arya.
He is survived by: his wife of 56 years, Lillie (Garcia) Aguilar of Lubbock; son Stevan Aguilar and wife Noemi of Houston; son Jaime Aguilar and wife Jamie Torres of Denver; daughter Timi Aguilar and husband Robert Merkle of Castle Pines, Colo.; daughter Annikka Hernandez and husband Ramiro of Lubbock; five grandchildren; and his sister, Dora Trevino and husband Tony of Lubbock.
Visitation will be from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 5, at The Venue on Broadway, 2202 Broadway, in Lubbock. A Rosary service is at 6 p.m. Funeral services are at 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6, at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Lubbock, with burial to follow at Peaceful Gardens Memorial Park.