"When it comes time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home."
Shawnee Indian Chief
Antonio (Tony) Javier Califa, 61, of Silver Spring, Maryland, died Saturday, April 25,at his home. Tony Califa was born on April 10, 1948, in Edinburg.
He graduated from Edinburg High School in 1966, from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in Government in 1970, and from Yale Law School in 1973. Tony began his distinguished career in public service by serving as Assistant Attorney General of the state of Colorado. Soon thereafter, he and his family moved to the Washington D.C. area. Tony served as Deputy Assistant Secretary/Director for Litigation, Enforcement and Policy in the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education from 1980 to 1985. Later he served as Chief Legislative Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union from 1985 to 1992, where he analyzed pending bills, presented testimony to House and Senate Committees, and lobbied for the Civil Rights Act of 1991 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. He was a member of the Justice/Civil Rights Cluster Group for the Clinton/Gore transition.
In 1993, he was appointed Director of the Department of Transportation's Office of Civil Rights. As Director of the Office of Civil Rights, Tony served as a champion of civil rights and equal employment practices. As Director, he administered programs such as Aid to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. Tony was also an Adjunct Professor at American University School of Law in Washington D.C., where he taught legislation and public policy. Tony served as Director of Litigation at the Department of Agriculture until his retirement in the fall of 2007. Tony wrote extensively on civil rights issues and was published in the Harvard Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Law Review, Vanderbilt Law Review, Los Angeles Times, National Law Journal and Legal Times.
Although Tony had a very demanding career, first and foremost in his mind and heart was his role as husband, father, grandfather, uncle, son and brother. This role is what he cherished as his most significant accomplishment.
In his beloved Edinburg, Tony was known and recognized by most as a hometown legend-a maverick, a person who was not afraid to speak his mind and heal injustices. His fundamental values, modeled by his loving parents, served as a foundation for the righteous principles for which he led his life. Tony was always a crusader, driven to right causes for which he felt a wrongdoing. Although he left the Valley and specifically, Edinburg, as a young adult, Tony's heart was always here. It was his life-long dream to come home. On behalf of the Califa, Pulido, Ceballos, and Balli families we would like the community to know that their "hero" has come home.
Tony was preceded in death by his father, Manuel Allem Califa, his mother, Blasita G. Califa, and his sister, Sandra Ann Califa, all of Edinburg.
He is survived by his loving wife of 38 years, Griselda Pearl (Balli) Califa, his son, Michael Anthony Califa, his daughter, Katherine Pearl Califa and his granddaughter, Isabella Pearl Califa, all of Silver Spring, Maryland. Also surviving him are his two remaining sisters Claret (Hector) Pulido and Norma (Max) Ceballos of Edinburg, along with their children Claudette and Jannette Pulido and Matthew and Jennifer Ceballos.
Visitation was held on Thursday, April 30, at Ceballos-Diaz Funeral Home in Edinburg with a rosary held at 7 p.m. Funeral mass was held on Friday, May 01, at 1 p.m. at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Edinburg. Interment was held immediately following the mass at Valley Memorial Gardens.
Pallbearers were Jerry Canales, Fred Garza, Richard Alamia Jr., Eloy Silva, Ramiro Garcia, and Fernando Garcia. Funeral services were entrusted to Ceballos-Diaz Funeral Home of Edinburg.