ROCHESTER — Roberto Resto, a longtime champion for the rights of immigrants and veterans, died suddenly Sept. 20.
Mr. Resto, who was born in Naguabo, Puerto Rico, died from injuries suffered in a one-car accident that occurred on South Avenue that same day, which happened to be his 60th birthday.
"It’s a loss for the community and a huge loss for the family," said his son-in-law, Marcos Garcia.
Mr. Resto served as a Marine during the Vietnam War and sustained major injuries after stepping on a land mine during his service, said Garcia. After the war, he lived in New Jersey for several years during the 1970s and then moved back to Puerto Rico.
Mr. Resto went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, said Brian Erway, who had worked alongside Resto since 2003 on such social-justice causes as immigration and anti-war demonstrations. Mr. Resto first took on the role as an activist while in San Juan Rico during a struggle between families who had built camps on a vacant piece of land and government officials who wanted to push them out. Resolution of the conflict led to the establishment of Villa sin Miedo (Village Without Fear),which became a self-governing community and still stands today, added Erway.
Mr. Resto moved to Rochester in 1997 and continued with his activist work, said Garcia. As the son of a migrant worker and a disabled veteran, Mr. Resto devoted his time and energy to defending human rights, Garcia added.
Mr. Resto played a major role in organizing huge mobilizations that took place in the Rochester area in 2006 in support of comprehensive immigration reform, explained Erway. Through those efforts, Mr. Resto went on to create the Alliance for Immigrant Rights, which sponsored and coordinated several marches in the years that followed, he added.
Mr. Resto was uniquely able to reach out to anyone, Erway added. While he could be blunt in his opinions, he commanded respect and was always friendly and unassuming, Erway remarked.
"We continue to see at each turn how central was the role he played in the causes and activities we shared with him," Erway said.
Mr. Resto is survived by his wife, Iris; five children, Emily Hernández, Luís Daniel Rivera, Cindy Resto, Yesinia Resto and Roberto Resto Jr.; nine grandchildren, one great-granddaughter; his mother, three brothers and one sister. He was buried at Rochester’s Riverside Cemetery on Sept. 25.