By Eleanor Smeal

I was distraught to learn last night of the unexpected death of Richard Estrada Chavez, the life partner of my dear friend Dolores Huerta, who serves on the Feminist Majority Foundation board of directors.

Richard was the younger brother of Cesar Chavez, who cofounded the United Farm Workers (UFW) with Dolores. Richard was a tireless activist in his own right, working throughout his life for social justice for all people and the labor rights of countless farm workers. For decades, the three of them were the driving force behind the farm workers movement, which has had a lasting positive impact upon the lives of millions throughout the U.S.

“As the nation’s labor secretary, I see every day the benefits of his work, as well as the continuing need for it,” wrote Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis today in a tribute.

Richard designed the famous UFW logo of a stylized Aztec eagle, which symbolizes dignity. A skilled carpenter and builder, he oversaw the development of La Paz Farm Workers Complex outside of Delano, Calif., which included a union office and hall, a health clinic, as well as housing for farm workers and organizers, among other structures. After retiring from the UFW, Richard remained an active board member of the Cesar Chavez Foundation and the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

When I close my eyes and think of Richard, it’s as Dolores’ Rock of Gibraltar, always there for her at each critical moment. This was literally true a decade ago when Dolores suffered a life-threatening tear in her aorta—if Richard had not rushed her to the emergency room, she would have died. He stayed steadily by her side through the weeks and months of her recovery.

A strong supporter of women’s rights and the work of Dolores, Richard attended many Feminist Majority Foundation events, together with their children. I’ll always remember Dolores and Richard dancing together on the Ms. Cruise, surrounded by their family. It was profoundly evident the joy they took in life together.

The Feminist Majority Foundation family will miss Richard and his strong presence in the fight for social justice—and our hearts go out to Dolores in her time of loss.

To express your sympathies to Dolores and continue Richard’s work for social justice, you can donate to the Dolores Huerta Foundation. And we will share any comments you post below with Dolores.

All photos courtesy of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

Reprinted from the Ms. Blog.