SAN BENITO — The community responded with an outpouring of love when Guadalupe Ayala was diagnosed with colon cancer.
That was in 2008.
At the time, he was a San Benito police officer twice awarded the Medal of Valor for saving two lives and recognized by the FBI for arresting two men on the agency’s most wanted list.
Ayala went on to successfully run for justice of the peace in 2014, defeating the incumbent.
Today, his colleagues are remembering him for his courage and service to the community after his death Saturday at the age of 55.
“He was an extremely honorable man who served his community well for many years, not just as a judge, but as a law enforcement officer. His contributions to his community will be sorely missed,” Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño said yesterday.
“He’d been ill for awhile and he’d been battling this. We’re all hopeful that our good Lord will grace and comfort his family during this difficult time and he’s now resting in peace and comfort.”
Justice of the Peace David Garza, also based in San Benito, praised Ayala’s commitment to public service.
“When you think of service to community, this gentleman was definitely the epitome of that, considering he served his country as a Marine, he served San Benito PD for so many years until his retirement and even knowing the diagnosis of cancer he went on to fulfill the position of JP,” Garza said.
Ayala, a San Benito High School graduate and Marine Corps veteran, joined the San Benito Police Department 23 years ago.
Starting out as a dispatcher, he went on to graduate from the police academy to become an officer.
Police Chief Michael Galvan said Ayala was twice honored for saving lives.
“In one of the incidents, he jumped into the Resaca and pulled a person out of the water,” Galvan said.
“The second incident, he went into a house fire and removed a special needs person to safety.”
After his diagnosis about seven years ago, his fellow officers, family and friends organized fundraisers to help pay for his treatment. And the community at large responded, buying tickets for barbecue plates and making donations.
Ayala eventually decided to resign to run for justice of the peace.
“He always wanted to be a judge,” Galvan said.
He was sworn into office on Jan. 1, 2015. His term was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2018.
“He was an inspiration to all,” Galvan said.
“Through all these obstacles, he never settled; he always wanted to be better. He just kept going and going and nothing was going to stop him.
“And that should be a model for everybody. You should never just settle; you should always try to be better.”
Ayala also was an associate pastor at Faith Pleases God Church.
His family said in a statement, “Throughout his career, Ayala received many accomplishments and changed many people’s lives for the better, not only as a man in uniform, but as a man of God.”
Today, viewing from noon to 9 p.m. (Prayer service at 7 p.m. at San Benito Funeral Home)
On Wednesday, friends and family will leave San Benito Funeral Home at 10:30 a.m. and head to Faith Pleases God Church for a Christian service at 11 a.m. The funeral procession will then commence to the San Benito City Cemetery.
Cameron County commissioners will appoint someone to fill the term of Justice of the Peace Guadalupe Ayala.
He was sworn into the Precinct 3, Place 1 office on Jan. 1, 2015. His term was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2018.
The precinct is based in San Benito and ranges from El Ranchito to Arroyo City, from Rangerville Road to Los Fresnos and from parts of Harlingen to Rio Hondo and San Benito.