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John Florez: Celebrate our unsung community giants

Published: Saturday, June 25 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

One was petite, and one was robust; both had giant hearts that made a difference.

Each, in their own way, went about helping people by building bridges and creating and strengthening the social, spiritual and economic character of our community. Mary Green and Lenoris Bush both passed on this month, and they leave a legacy of love and hope for all of us to carry on. They were strong advocates for the African American community and the rights of the powerless, and both were well respected in Utah.

Mary Green was a gentle and kind woman with strong commitment to her community. Her deeds are best embraced by the words of Gandhi, "In a gentle way, you can shape the world." When it came to standing up for civil rights and the powerless, she was the first to speak. She was first to receive the Rosa Parks award given by the Salt Lake National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and she was a lifetime member of that organization.

She was a tireless worker who helped develop the Central City Neighborhood, where I first met her. Mary dedicated her life to her church, and was seen weekly, if not daily, helping those in need, teaching Sunday School. In the words of her pastor France Davis, "She made sure we were able to pay for the church utilities." She will be long remembered for her caring heart, whose first concern was for others.

Lenoris Bush was a big man with a booming voice that hid a gentle heart. He lived and died by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s words, "If a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live." He walked the talk. He did not hesitate to speak for the oppressed. He will be long remembered for this commitment to improving lives of students. He started the Utah Opportunities Industrialization Inc. (UOIC), a training program to help the unemployed.

He was a strong advocate for civil rights, lifetime member of the NAACP and recipient of numerous awards. He was a member of many community organizations and recognized for his commitment to youth and economic development in the minority community. Through his work he brought many people together.

Because of his background, Lenoris knew the value of hard work and education, and he dedicated his life to empowering parents to help children with their education. Lenoris was a listener; and when he spoke, it was with passion and always in the interest of the community. He was relentless in his commitment to volunteering to help his community and the first to roll up his sleeves in working to bridge our communities. He will leave very big shoes to fill.

Mary and Lenoris were unsung leaders who made up the fiber of our community that brought us together. They helped everyone work for the common good. They never sought recognition; their greatest reward was to see our community come together as people and respect the dignity and worth of every individual, regardless of his/her station in life. They touched the lives of many of us in the community and taught us how to live and work together.

They gave so much and asked nothing. They have shown us how to live a life of dignity and believe in the worth of every individual. Mary and Lenoris, you did your duty; you left this world a little better. We will miss you, and your work goes on.

A Utah native, John Florez has been on the staff of Senator Orrin Hatch, was former Utah Industrial Commissioner and filled White House appointments — including Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor and Commission on Hispanic Education.

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