David Castañeda, who helped bring a high school to Mendota, dies

The Fresno BeeJuly 4, 2014 

Ernest "David" Castañeda

David Castañeda helped achieve something the city of Mendota will always cherish -- its own high school.

Before Mendota High School opened in 1992, generations of students rode the bus about 13 miles to attend Tranquillity High.

Mr. Castañeda, whose work promoting the new high school was but one of many leadership roles he took in the west-side city, died June 27. He was 68.

Mr. Castañeda was born in Brawley in Imperial County but grew up in Mendota. He met his wife Margaret at Tranquillity High, where he graduated in 1966 before going on to trade school in Fresno to study finance. He opened his own insurance business where he became well known throughout the Mendota community.

"David always was involved in the community," former Mendota mayor Joseph Riofrio said. "He loved Mendota and genuinely cared about the children."

Mr. Castañeda was a prominent figure when it came to Mendota sports. He started the Pop Warner football program and the Mendota Chamber Girls, a softball team for girls who weren't able to make the other two teams in town. He would attend high school football games even on the coldest Friday nights.

"I remember how cold it was when me and my dad would go to football games," his youngest daughter Kimberly said. "Even though he was cold, he would still want to watch the kids play."

Mendota youth were always a top priority for Mr. Castañeda.

"He wanted to make it better for the kids and keep them busy and out of trouble," his oldest daughter Lisa Castañeda-Perez said.

Becoming a high school football referee and a Pop Warner referee was something he was able to cross off his bucket list.

"I remember him tell me that the toughest part about being a referee is trying to find a way to get back to your car without someone beating you up," Riofrio said.

Mr. Castañeda also found time for community leadership. He served stints as president of the Mendota Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce, the Mendota Unified School District Board and was chairman of the Mendota Planning Commission.

"He was a hard worker and helped everybody as much as he could," Castañeda-Perez said. "It was like I had to share my dad with the community."

Ernest 'David' Castañeda

Date of birth: Nov. 21, 1945

Date of death: June 27, 2014

Survivors: Wife Margaret; children Kimberly Castañeda, David Castañeda, Lisa Castañeda-Perez; seven grandchildren

Services: Rosary, 7 p.m. Monday at Our Lady of Guadalupe, 484 Quince St., Mendota; Mass, 11 a.m. Tuesday at Our Lady of Guadalupe

The reporter can be reached at smartin@fresnobee.com or @SharonBMartin on Twitter.

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