Ivette Salgado; pioneer and health-care advocate

ROCHESTER — Carmen Ivette Salgado was a pioneer and longtime health-care advocate for the Latino community.

Mrs. Salgado, who was known to the community as Ivette, died Sept. 10, 2012, at the age of 72.

A native of Santurce, Puerto Rico, Mrs. Salgado moved to Rochester in 1955 after moving to Brooklyn as a young child, said her daughter, Vanessa Simmons. Mrs. Salgado and her husband, Roberto, met in Brooklyn but married in Rochester in 1959, Simmons added.

Her first job was as an interpreter for what was then called Rochester Department of Social Services. She later went on to work in a lawyer’s office before joining Action for a Better Community, Simmons said, where she worked for the next three decades.

Mrs. Salgado oversaw employment and training programs and created a nursing assistant’s program in 1972, her daughter noted. As her mother struggled through recent health episodes related to her diabetes, the family encountered many nurses or technicians who had gone through Mrs. Salgado’s program, Simmons said.

"It was gratifying for her to see that a lot of her sacrifice was not in vain," Simmons added.

Her mother was going all the time, she recalled. She would be at work, come home to cook for the family and then return to meetings in the evenings, Simmons explained. And when they were young, she and her siblings would be at the meetings with her, she added.

"In the midst of a crazy work life, she didn’t skip a beat with our health care … or education," Simmons said. "She was always a presence. She never dropped the ball in any area."

Mrs. Salgado sat on or served as board chair for more than 30 agencies and organizations, said Juan Padilla, who spoke during her eulogy. The organizations included the Latino Health Coalition, Catholic Charities, Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency and United Way of Rochester. Mrs. Salgado also had served as chairwoman for Ibero-American Development Corp. and vice president of Ibero-American Action League.

Mrs. Salgado represented two generations of activists, following in the footsteps of her father and uncle, said Father Laurence Tracy, who celebrated her funeral Mass at St. Michael Church.

"She was involved in a lot of things," he added.

Mrs. Salgado most recently served as board chair for the Rochester Primary Care Network, for which she was a founding member and where Simmons now works.

"I’m a workhorse just like my mother," Simmons said. "But that (philosophy) is about paying it forward. It’s about always helping somebody in need. … And that’s not about financially supporting people but giving them the ability to provide for their families."

"Her life vocation … was to promote and support healthy families, healthy communities and healthy institutions," Padilla noted. "Ivette was always grounded in the values of family and community."

Her mother never did anything for recognition, Simmons noted. But she received many awards throughout the years including Hispanic Heritage awards and a national recognition called the Jefferson Award for her community service and foster care. Mrs. Salgado served as a foster mother for more than 25 children, Simmons said.

"Her essence, everything she was about, was about helping other people," she remarked. "And she had the respect of many."

Mrs. Salgado is survived by her husband, Roberto; her daughters and sons-in-law, Melissa and Michael Keefe, Vanessa and Gregory Simmons, and Yvonne; her son and daughter-in-law, John and Kimberly; four sisters, Angela (Judy) Lasek, Rita Díaz-Kenney, Grace Díaz-Tubbs, Julia Díaz-Rodríguez; nine grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Donations in her memory may be made to the American Diabetes Association.

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