RACINE - Whether working on behalf of his fellow Latinos or on Racine's Police and Fire Commission, Gilbert Delgado sought to amplify the voices of those who might not normally be heard.

Services were held Friday for Delgado, a longtime community activist who died Monday at 65.

"I wish there were more people that had his desire to step up and help the Latino community," said Wally Rendon, president of the Hispanic Business and Professionals Association and a retired Racine police officer.

Among a variety of activities, Delgado formed an organization called Esperanza/Hope. It provided translation and other services, as well as guidance for Latino residents who didn't know where to go for help.

At a time when the Latino population lacked a central hub, Delgado, Rendon said, wanted to help fill that void. Yet, Rendon said Delgado's impact through the years may not have been appreciated because his political stances weren't always popular in the segment of the community he served. For example, Delgado openly criticized the decision to allow students to participate in marches for immigration reform.

He was active in the labor movement and encouraged students to learn about civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, a man he met. Delgado carried that affinity for the rank-and-file worker into his service on the Racine Police and Fire Commission from 1990 to 2002. Former Police Chief Richard Polzin remembers Delgado leading a shift in the commission's focus.

"He wanted to know how the officers felt about things on the department and he wanted to bridge that gap," Polzin said.

Delgado spent some of his later years in Texas, where he was born. Tony Martinez of Racine, who met him while the two men worked at Case Corp., said Delgado would pick up right where he left off when he returned to Racine.

"If anybody came to him with a problem," Martinez said, "he would find a way to help them out."

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