Gene Rivera memorial unveiled in Ontario
A plaque in honor of Gene Rivera, who passed away on Jan. 15, was unveiled at Ontario Central Little League on June 2. The plaque placed on top of a boulder at Central Little League was more than a tribute, it was a representation of what Gene Rivera meant to the Ontario community. The plaque was unveiled in honor of Rivera, who passed away on Jan. 16, at Ontario Central Little last Saturday.
A large gathering of people in support of the Memorial including BMW workers, Little League families as well as city officials attended the event.
“He was our foundation, and it symbolized who he was. You don’t move a rock and you couldn’t move Gene. He was going to help no matter what,” said Johnny Thompson, director of the Dorothy Quesada center.
In March, a group of residents asked the city to create a public memorial in his honor.
ohnny Thompson, director of the Dorothy Quesada center addresses the large group of people that gathered in memory of late community activist Gene Rivera. (Courtesy photo)
Most recently, Rivera was involved in helping restore employment for BMW employees during their contract negotiations. Rivera also helped countless numbers of youth during his time in Ontario.
“Gene was a man who provided love and commitment for other people. I just felt we had to do something beyond a plaque,” Thompson said.
Soon after residents made the request in March, the Gene Rivera committee, comprised of community members of former colleagues was formed. The committee met weekly for a couple of months, with the aim to raise funds to create a tribute to Rivera, Thompson said.
“People came out of the woodwork,” he said. “It because of who Gene was. He wasn’t about Gene it was what he could to for the business and community.” In order to pay for the expenses, the committee decided to sell $20 raffle tickets. Thompson said “It’s been an overwhelming response, over 500 tickets were sold.” It couldn’t have been done without the support of Rivera’s former colleagues and resident Regina Terrones, he said.
Because the group was able to raise a large sum, the remaining funds were donated to the Central Little League and Ontario’s parks division.
Thompson said he first met Rivera about 27 years because of his involvement in the city’s parks system. Rivera was always instrumental in selling dozens of tickets for an annual BBQ fundraiser put on at the Dorothy Quesada Center.
Thompson said there was also countless times that Rivera would financially help a family who couldn’t afford to enroll their child in little league. And Rivera “never wanted recognition, never wanted anything in return,” he said. To this day, Thompson said people are still going to his graveside to pay tribute.
As part of the event, the committee handed out the winning from the raffle, with the 1st prize receiving $2,500, 2nd was awarded $1,500, 3rd place got $1,000, Thompson said.