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Ernest “Chuck” Ayala, a beloved husband, father, and grandfather, native San Franciscan, veteran, relator, and community advocate, passed away on Monday, April 22, 2019, in his sleep at his home in San Francisco. He was 94.
Chuck was born on June 9, 1924, and reared by an immigrant single mother in a poor household the 8th of 9 siblings. He grew up in the South of Market neighborhood, attended St. Patrick’s, Everett Jr. High, and eventually Mission High School. He earned advanced degrees from Golden Gate College, University of California Extension Program, Lone Mountain College (M.A. in Community Development and Public Service), and a lifetime California Community Colleges instructor credential.
His first effort at entrepreneurship came at a young age. He sold newspapers on a South of Market street corner and then carried a shoe shine box where he would shine shoes for a dime. Ever the devoted son, the dimes that he earned were added to his Mom’s purse to help make ends meet.
At the age of 18, Chuck joined the Army and served in World War II. He saw time in the Asiatic, Pacific and European Theatres. Before entering the War, he was known as “Ernie,” but after a soldier saw the middle initial “C.” on his name tag, he assumed it stood for Charles, and Ernie became Chuck.
After returning home, he used his GI Bill to buy his mother her first home on Homestead Street. One fateful evening he attended a “USO Welcome Home Soldiers” dance at the El Patio where he met the love of his life, Bernice (née Lubetich). They were married at the Carmel Mission on June 24th, 1951; their first child arrived nine months later, and three more children would follow.
Chuck and Bernice engrained themselves in the Eureka Valley community. Bernice was the consummate partner supporting his every endeavor.
He founded Ayala Real Estate & Insurance on Castro St. a business he ran for over 50 years. As a young father, he sold insurance door to door, drove a cab, refereed local college basketball, served as the Director of CYO Youth Services, and coached CYO basketball for many teams at Most Holy Redeemer. As a neighborhood mainstay, he provided guidance and support to many of the neighborhood children.
Chuck was always there to greet you with a smile and a firm handshake. He was an old-school businessman, where deals were made on a handshake, and his word was a good as gold. He never met a stranger. To know him was to love him. While he was successful in business, his true contribution to San Francisco came as a community activist, advocate, and champion.
Inspired by his mother’s experience, who became a United States citizen with the help of a senior center, Chuck founded Centro Latino de San Francisco in the Mission District in 1973. The center provides low-income seniors with meals, transportation, bilingual assistance, health assessments, proudly teaches U.S. Citizenship classes. What started as a once-a-week lunch program now feeds more than 2,500 seniors each year. The senior center was his greatest passion.
In addition to his work at Centro Latino, Chuck served with pride on the California Commission on Aging and was appointed twice to the White House Conference on Aging. He was always advocating for Senior rights; his line was “You’re lucky if there’s a senior in your future.”
His community work expanded to several organizations, including years as Director of Urban Development for the Catholic Youth Organization. Chuck was also an active member of the American G.I. Forum (Past Chairman), Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6108 (Past Commander), Mexican American Political Association, San Francisco Friars Club, Knights of Columbus (Past Grand Knight), Eureka Valley Merchants Association, Eureka Valley Promotion Association, Golden Gate National Recreation Advisory Commission, Old Timers Baseball Association (Vice-President), Most Holy Redeemers Men's Club, and other organizations to numerous to mention.
A lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party, Chuck was a Delegate to the 1972 National Democratic Convention and member of the Eureka Valley-Noe Valley Democratic Club.
Chuck was elected to the San Francisco City and County Community College Board. He served several terms on the CCSF board and went on to serve on the Board of Directors of the Association of Community College Trustees. He was a strong advocate for free tuition to community colleges and fought to keep all fees to a minimum.
Beyond his organized community efforts, Chuck was a champion of the less fortunate. He provided counsel and support to dozens of kids who were heading down the wrong path.
The San Francisco Examiner recognized Chuck with the Phoebe A. Hearst Medallion in 1974. The Medallion was given to San Francisco’s ten most distinguished citizens that year. While humility would keep him from mentioning this, Chuck received dozens of honors over the years, including from the United States Marine Corps (Outstanding Service Award), Commendation of Service from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, California State Assembly for Efforts and Service, San Francisco Board of Supervisors Certificate of Honor, Dolores M. Huerta Lifetime Achievement Award from Mayor Ed Lee, an Outstanding Service Award from Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, and many more.
While his accomplishments are numerous, his greatest joy and source of pride was his family. Married for over 56 years, Chuck was preceded in death by his wife Bernice in 2008, and his son Bob. He is survived by children Darlene (Ayala) Goldberg, Mike Ayala, Joe Ayala and his wife Lee, grandchildren Lauren Goldberg, Tony Ayala, Nicole Ayala-Duqmaq, her husband Feeras, Danielle Ayala, and Jessica Logoteta. Zane Duqmaq promoted Chuck to great-grandfather this past September. Chuck is also survived by his sister Virginia Fischer, numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and his right-hand woman, the Executive Director of CLSF, Gloria Bonilla. He was also predeceased by his compadre, his brother-in-law Dick Paff.
We would also like to thank Ludy and Lorna who so graciously cared for our dad these past few years. You helped keep our promise to keep him at home, and we are so grateful to you for the love and attention you paid him.
Beloved by his family and community, Chuck leaves a legacy of service that won’t soon be matched. We will miss him, but honor his legacy by carrying on his work.
A rosary service will take place at 6 pm on Monday, April 29th at St. Brendan’s Church (29 Rockaway Way). A viewing will begin at 4:30 pm. A Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 10:30 am on Tuesday, April 30th, also at St. Brendan’s. Private interment.
Donations may be made in Chuck’s memory to Centro Latino de San Francisco (1656 - 15th St, San Francisco, CA 94103) Attention Gloria Bonilla.