A Tireless Advocate

Frank del Olmo built bridges of understanding

By Nativo V. Lopez
Published on LatinoLA: February 26, 2004

A Tireless Advocate

Frank del Olmo passed from this earth on Thursday, February 19, 2004 at the age of 55. He served in various capacities with the Los Angeles Times for nearly 34 years, beginning as an intern and fulfilling his last position as an editorial writer and associate editor of one of the largest circulated newspapers in the United States.

Frank was a tireless advocate for the Mexican, Mexican-American and Latino community "in his own way" through his writing on a wide variety of topics interwoven with a sense of mission to teach through simple explanation and expose, humor, anecdote, with a direct, sincere, and honest message ? not just to and about our own community, however. I always got the sense that Frank was concerned with teaching the Anglo community about us, but not in a disdainful, distasteful or conceited manner. Frank was about building bridges, cultural bridges, not erecting borders and divides.

Probably the most revealing quality of Frank del Olmo was his humanity. His style of writing was not hurtful even when his message was harsh, as in the case when he excoriated former Gov. Pete Wilson for his support of Prop. 187, and the Los Angeles Times' endorsement of Wilson for a second term. He was characteristically principled and this almost resulted in his resigning from the Times. It was not always easy to wage his struggle from within one of the corporate monsters of the news industry, which to this day refuses to purge from its pages the repugnant term of "illegal alien."

I would venture to say that Frank's humanity was partially rooted in his personal experiences with Frankie, his son who suffers from autism. I am certain that Frank was humbled by the emotional relationship with Frankie who is incapable of fending for himself and depended on his father's patience, love, and respect. Frank had these qualities and generously shared them not only with his beloved son, but also with those who surrounded him.

I really only knew Frank del Olmo from afar. We never broke bread together, never shared drinks, a smoke, or a joke. I was an avid reader of his columns, though. He interviewed me several times over the years, and I was always taken by his respectful demeanor and sincerity. These straits were also revealed through his columns.

We will miss this titan. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and his colleagues at the Los Angeles Times.

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