[Source: Connie Cone Sexton, Arizona Republic] — An interviewer once asked Adam Diaz why, at age 77, he continued to be so politically and socially involved. Why not just take up bowling or golf? Diaz politely discounted the suggestion. “My time is limited,” he responded. “Every day you get up is a bonus day. But having a goal keeps you young. It helps keep you alive and vital.” His positive attitude paid off. Diaz died Friday. He was 100.
Diaz led an accomplished life. A highlight reel would include, of course, being the first Latino councilman of Phoenix. He served four years, starting in the 1950s. One year, he was vice mayor. He later spent five years on the Phoenix Elementary School District board. He championed downtown Phoenix decades before it was the hip thing to do. He pushed for historic preservation and pushed even harder for preserving the spirit and legacy of the Hispanic people. He helped establish Friendly House, helping the poor. He was a board member for Chicanos Por La Causa. President Bill Clinton tapped him for his Task Force on Aging.
Accolades and honors followed his every project. But he would point to the two things that made him strong: his family and his community. He embraced Phoenix with warmth and pride. He sought improvements for all but was a constant advocate for the Latino community, especially in south Phoenix. He lived there most of his life. He lived during the years when Hispanics were not welcome by many to live north of Van Buren Street and were prohibited from going to certain schools.
Diaz’s gentle nature became passionate about bringing change and taking on responsibility for getting things done. It had been that way since the death of his father when he was just 13. He went to work as a delivery boy for Western Union, then as an elevator operator in one of the buildings owned by prominent Phoenix businessman George Luhrs. Diaz was popular, engaging. Luhrs took him under his wing, eventually making him a building manager. The job put him in the path of many early Phoenix movers and shakers. Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater became a friend and urged him to run for the City Council.
Diaz’s daughter, Sally Feight, said he liked being on the council because it gave him greater access to knowing the community’s needs. “He really was a man of the people,” she said. Granddaughter Lisa Urias said he never retreated into old age, adding, “every morning he would say, ‘Que bonito el dia’ (What a beautiful day). He loved life so much.”