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Helen Chavez, widow of UFW co-founder Cesar Chavez, dead at 88

Helen Chavez, at a ceremony honoring the designation of Forty Acres as a National Historic Landmark in 2011.
Helen Chavez, at a ceremony honoring the designation of Forty Acres as a National Historic Landmark in 2011. Vida en el Valle

Helen Fabela Chavez, the widow of United Farm Workers union co-founder Cesar Chavez, died Monday at a Bakersfield hospital, the union announced. She was 88.

She was credited with playing a vital role in helping her husband found the union, including speaking out at a pivotal moment when the young union’s leadership was debating whether to join a grape strike begun by Filipino union workers, settling the debate by asking, “Are we a union or not?”

Helen and Cesar Chavez married in 1948 after his discharge from the U.S. Navy. They had eight children. Helen Chavez often had to raise the children by herself and returned to field work while her husband organized farmworkers in the Central Valley, the union said.

The union said details on funeral services would be released Tuesday.

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