Born to a Hardworking Family
Emilio Hector Reyes, Jr., was born in the small town of Ciales, Puerto Rico, to Emilio and Cristina (Berrios) Reyes on a farm owned by his father. As a child he was surrounded by a lovely, hardworking family. His parents taught him to have good values, to respect others, to get an education and to be a good, constructive citizen.
Hector’s family was one of the first Hispanic families to migrate to Worcester in 1960.
Hector was an amazing baker with Widoff’s Bakery for 14 years. His daughters looked forward to him coming home every night with treats from the bakery.
A Servant to the Community
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, with his wife Lydia, Hector was instrumental in the founding and creation of several Latino organizations throughout Worcester. He provided many years of community service.
In 1968, The Latin Civic Association hosted social and civic activities at the Father Powers Center. Hector helped coordinate many of those events.
When ALPA was founded in 1971, Hector was soon appointed Executive Director. Working with the community and staff, they advocated for social issues and social justice within Casa De La Communidad. The first bilingual education initiative was a program to ensure that Hispanic children were educated in subject and age-appropriate classes. They also spearheaded the free breakfast program to ensure that students would be nutritionally prepared to learn in class.
Hector worked with his daughter Marlyn to start the first Latino radio station programming on WICN at Holy Cross College in 1972. The programs transitioned to WCUW at Clark University.
Hector worked on the Model Cities Construction Clearinghouse program, advocating for workforce diversity so that Latino men could work in construction trades.
In training young men and women to increase the vitality of the community, the Hispanic Youth Leadership Program was started in 1975.
Continuing to expand athletic opportunities for the community, Hector was involved with the first Latino Softball League, the Roberto Clemente League, in 1976.
Hector was instrumental in helping create Centro Comunale, Inc. the organization that founded Centro Las Americas, a family, community, and cultural center, in 1976.
Also in 1976, Hector contributed to the founding the first Latino Social Club and Nightlife Entertainment Venue in Worcester (El Coqui).
After retiring, Hector continued to help people progress beyond challenges in their lives. He worked with the Mass Senior Action Council in advocating on quality of life issues for Latino senior citizens as founding member and outreach coordinator.
Addressing Substance Abuse Issues
Hector saw a need to address substance abuse issues in the community. He compassionately helped men addicted to alcohol and other substances to enter treatment programs and attain sobriety and new beginnings. Hector pushed the envelope as a pioneering Puerto Rican-American role model. He helped found Primara Parada as the first Latino program to address these issues in 1974. In 2004, Hector was a founding member of Latin American Health Alliance (LAHA), a team of community, civic, and political leaders who supported the Hector E. Reyes Substance Abuse Initiative. Years of hard work, commitment, and dedication to provide a culturally focused program and treatment facility for Latino males culminated with the Grand Opening of the Hector E. Reyes House, on Vernon Hill, in October, 2008.
Hector E. Reyes Jr. Legacy
On the day of his death, July 4, 2009, the benevolence of Emilio Hector Reyes, Jr., became a legacy that continues through the activities of the Hector E. Reyes House, the organizations that he was involved in and all who he touched. His final resting place is at the Worcester County Memorial Park, Paxton.