Remembering our father five years later


Morales Family photo around 1972.

Morales Family photo around 1970.

NOTE: Forgive me. This has almost nothing to do with high school sports but it has a lot do with life.

Hector Avila Morales Jr.
October 17, 1933 March 12, 2010

I can’t believe it’s been five years since my father passed away. We were all by his side that day. My mom, Hector, Debbie, Carlos, Javier and me.

I remember his last breath as if it was yesterday but I also remember the first breaths ever taken my daughters Arianna, Brittney and Maggie. Such is life. The winds of immortality are passed from father to child to child.

Our loss was a public one due to the position our father held in our community. A former Tucson City Councilman, the designer of the Pima County Seal, an aide to both Mo Udall and Cesar Chavez, the champion of the Yaqui and Tohono O’odham, the national assistant to Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and the tireless worker for the forgotten.

Tata city hall

I never really had a chance to mourn my father as a “father” when he passed away. It was difficult. But our family has since had the chance to celebrate his life and his passing as just “Dad” or “Tata” on numerous occasions.

Like most sons, I talk to my father almost everyday. The sum of what his children might accomplished in our collective lifetimes will never match what he was able to do by the time he was 40 but we are all still trying in our own way.

I ask him for advice that I know will never come but I always figure out he already gave me the tools to answer my own questions.

He would always say things to me when I was younger like, “It’s better to do good than do well,” “You stand closest to where you sit” and “We must move beyond tolerance towards acceptance.”

It was never the typical, “This is how you change a tire” father-son conversation but I’m grateful for that. I figured that kind of stuff out on my own – I never could have figured out the things that mattered.

I understood completely when I showed him my master’s degree and he told me the only thing separating me from the people I will work with was a piece of paper. He was proud of what I accomplished in the classroom but he was also proud of how my siblings and I treated others.

I recall walking down a hallway with him and my younger brother in his office building in Washington D.C. Our dad stopped to talk to a custodian along the way and, while others dressed in suits walked past us, the custodian asked him if we were Andy and Javier. That was both cool and educational.

To this day, it upsets me when a secretary, custodian or classroom aide calls me “Mr. Morales” when students aren’t around. My dad would never approve.

One of the final things my father told me was to make sure the next generation in our family (his grandchildren) felt no obligation to serve our community. He wanted them to enjoy what his generation did for them. But he also wanted them to remember the sacrifices.

He always told us he loved us but in one of our final conversations he said he waited much too long to tell us he was proud of us and to not make that mistake with our own children.

We are all proud of Wade and Arianna traveling the country, working far from home. Brittney living her dream in the White Mountains and soon to travel the world. Maggie going off to college to play softball and Amber on the verge of making her dreams come true. And the younger ones, Adam and Mackenzie so full of life.

Sadly, we never got to see what his oldest grandson would accomplish. Ian passed away at age 23, rebuilding after the fire on Mt. Lemmon. But we know he is now with his Tata.

Not a community leader, just Tata.

Elsa and Hector, 50th wedding anniversary.

Elsa and Hector, 50th wedding anniversary.

Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here, on and on the pages of the Vail Voice and the Tanque Verde Voice. Contact Andy Morales at

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