Local radio veteran Alma Garza dies

Alma Garza spent decades on the radio.
Alma Garza spent decades on the radio. Radio Bilingue

Alma Garza, a veteran on-air personality at Radio Bilingüe and host of the Tex-Mex music program “Onda Tejana,” died Wednesday, March 9, in Fresno. The woman known as “Miss Alma” had battled complications from diabetes for a long time.

She was 68.

María Eraña, director of broadcasting for Radio Bilingüe, says Miss Alma had been off the air for most of 2015 due to illness, but at times, when she felt better, she would do the “Onda Tejana” show on Saturday. The last time she was on the show was Nov. 14.

“She loved sharing her favorite music on-air and connecting with her listeners,” Eraña says.

Miss Alma’s knowledge of Tejano and Conjunto music was cultivated over 30 years of working on Radio Bilingüe stations and affiliates in Fresno and along the border to her native Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Her friends and admirers included musical legends from Little Joe y La Familia to David Lee Garza to Jesse Serrata.

A statement was released by Radio Bilingüe, the National Latino Public Radio Network headquartered here. It says: “Nobody could cheer our hearts like Miss Alma as she played the greatest and most soulful Tex-Mex music for us every Saturday. For her audience and her Radio Bilingüe friends, she was the best of company through all of our highs and lows in life, connecting families, sweethearts, comadres, compadres y ‘toda la raza guatosa.’ Nobody lived more ‘bilingüe’ than Miss Alma, who was passionate and proud about her family, her community, her languages – Spanish, English and Spanglish – and her roots. She is a Puro Tejano treasure and one of our own.”

The Texas native moved to the San Joaquin Valley with her family at age 13 to work the cotton and grape fields. She moved to Parlier in 1962 and eventually to Fresno, where she raised her family, which includes five children (Johnny, Jenette, Joy, Jose and Corina), 25 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, two sisters and a brother.

Radio Bilingüe News Director Samuel Orozco says, “Alma Garza had a boundless sense of humor and spirit of joy – and she had a contagious love for her homeland, the land where she was born and raised, the Rio Grande Valley.

“She loved her Tejano people and her music, the music of her grandparents, the ballads of the beautiful border – a love she projected into her faithful listeners that tuned in for decades.”

Radio Bilingüe founder and executive director Hugo Morales praises the radio personality for helping the radio network provide the platform for Mexican American authentic voices and the traditional arts to flourish.

“Alma Garza did that every minute she was on our microphones for three decades, beginning in 1985. Her life and her being is the story of the Mexican American Tejano migrant. With limited formal education, she came to our studios as a community volunteer with her authentic Rio Grande voice and her extensive knowledge and genius for the border music,” Morales says.

Hot medium

E! has ordered a second season of “Hollywood Medium With Tyler Henry,” the series that follows the 20-year-old clairvoyant from Hanford. This was an easy decision for the cable network because the reality show had the biggest launch of unscripted programs for E! in three years.

“Hollywood Medium With Tyler Henry” premiered Sunday, Jan. 24, with new episodes airing at 10 p.m. Sundays.

Henry has done readings for Amber Rose, Jaime Pressly, Margaret Cho, NeNe Leaks, Bella Thorne, Cheryl Burke, Michael Sam, Tom Arnold, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Jodie Sweetin, WWE Diva Natalya, Monica Potter and Melissa Joan Hart.

Casting call

Clovis West graduate Amanda Leighton has been cast to be the voice of Blossom in a reboot of the cartoon series “Powerpuff Girls.” Leighton previously worked on the ABC Family series “Make It or Break It.”

“Powerpuff Girls” centers on three superheroes whose mission in life alternates among going to school, fighting crime, winning at hopscotch and saving the world before bedtime.

It will air on the Cartoon Network in April.

Also, Bullard High graduate Jamie Rose is a guest star on the 8 p.m. Thursday, March 17, episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” She’s best known for playing Vickie Gioberti in the 1980s prime time soap opera “Falcon Crest.” Other roles include the TV series “Lady Blue” and the cult film classic “Chopper Chicks in Zombietown.”

Special showing

Valley PBS marks the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide with an encore airing of “Valley of Hope: The Armenian Journey From Terror to Triumph” that tells local stories of the victims of the genocide told through interviews with survivors’ children and grandchildren.

It will air at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 17.

Time to vote

Forget Trump and Clinton. The important voting is going on right now at The Fresno Grizzlies and The Fresno Bee have put together another “Fresno Famous” tournament. You can go to the bracket and vote for your favorite local celebrity.

On the list are numerous local TV and radio personalities. The team was even kind enough to include me on the list.

Take a moment and vote. The Fresno Famous Champion will have a jersey designed in his or her honor.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1