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Silvestre Durán, Sr. remembered as Latino Voice, Advocate, and Entertainer


By La Prensa Staff


Whether the spoken word, in song, or on social media, Silvestre Durán, Sr. loved to tell stories.But coronavirus silenced those stories last Thursday, July 23, 2020. Durán was 90.


On his Facebook page, however, many people paid tribute to a man known as happy and full of life and love for his family and friends; and, of course, music and dance,....especially to la música tejana! He loved singing mariachi también [as he often did at the annual Toledo Scholarship Day with the Toledo Mud Hens]!   


“My deepest condolences to all of his family and friends. What a fun-loving man Sylvester was,” wrote Tiffany Arce-Kidd. “I remember a couple dances I had with him and he was always smiling and happy to see everyone. He really loved his family and had the best stories. He just screamed happiness and life all together.”


“The world’s most interesting man became heaven’s most interesting angel,” wrote his granddaughter Devyn Durán. “I never thought this day would come, considering everything you’ve been through. I was convinced you were invincible. You’ve impacted so many lives and I am so blessed to call you my grandpa.”

Silvestre Durán

Silvestre with his wife of 67 years, Emily


Durán graduated from the University of Toledo in 1969 after studying social work and political science. He also graduated from Swanton High School in 1948. Durán married his high school sweetheart, Emily Cantú, in 1953. He was born in Crystal City, Texas on Nov. 13, 1929 and moved to Swanton with his family as a teen.


While Durán once worked at Jeep, he was best-known as a radio host and a community advocate, when he worked for the Toledo Catholic Diocese as a Hispanic outreach coordinator.


Durán spent more than five decades on the airwaves at WFOB-AM 1430 in Fostoria, co-hosting a Tejano music show that had a number of names over the years, most recently Radio Fiesta. The radio program also featured norteño and conjunto music. The Saturday radio show became popular with migrant-farm families working the farm fields across Northwest Ohio, much like his own family had done. Many called Durán with special dedications for birthdays and other events. The show, which started in 1955, aired its final broadcast at the end of August 2008.


“I take pride in having produced a Spanish radio program for our community. It wasn’t the Spanish from Spain or México, but the humble Spanish that my parents taught me while growing up in Texas,” said Durán in a 2008 LaPrensa article detailing his radio retirement.


Durán and Felipe Pérez of Findlay were honored in September 2002 at an annual Hispanic Heritage Banquet by the Fostoria Hispanic Awareness Committee for their many years as DJ’s. “Their informative and selected music has enlightened and nourished our cultural background with continuing pride in our culture and ourselves,” said committee member Mario Díaz in a 2002 La Prensa preview of the event.


Durán also served as a concert promoter, bringing Tejano and other bands from Texas and Mexico to Northwest Ohio. When his son Sylvester Jr. was president of the Latino Student Union at Bowling Green State University in the mid-1970s, the pair collaborated to bring in a
concert with Mexican movie and recording star Vicente Fernández, at the time in the prime of his entertainment career. Durán often entertained himself, as a singer and guitar player.


Those he impacted in the local music scene also paid tribute to Durán on social media.


“The world lost a great man. He’s dancing and singing with the angels today,” wrote Natasha Salazar-Stoner, lead singer of the Black Swamp Rebels. “I will miss you ‘Grandpa’ Durán.”


“He wasn’t just the life of the party. He was the party,” wrote mariachi singer Jacob Estrada. “My grandfather and brothers sang at Mr. Durán’s wedding. I had the honor of singing with Silvestre many times. Thank you for all the fun and great memories.”


“He gave me my love for music, taught me art, was at all my games, even coming to my band’s shows. He taught me how to stand up for what you believe in at a very young age marching with FLOC,” recalled grandson Steve Longoria, Jr. on Facebook. “Most importantly, he taught me about family and how to be a great father. So, until we can play music together again, every time I strum the guitar you will be on my mind.”


“I was blessed to have made the acquaintance of Senor Durán—advocate in the community, supporter of our música Tejana and a smooth dancer,” wrote Yvonne Ramos-Ybarra, lead singer of Yvonne y Grupo Fuego. “I smile at the remembrance of his gritos.”


For a time, Durán owned and operated a Mexican restaurant in the Old South End, located near SS. Peter & Paul Church. He named it in honor of his late father, calling the restaurant Don Ysidro’s. Durán’s entire family worked in the restaurant.


Durán earned a number of accolades and awards for his decades of Latino advocacy work, including a Diamante Award in 1999.


Durán was a founding member and board president of La Raza Unida de Ohio. He also helped to establish and served as a commissioner on the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs under then-governor Richard Celeste.


Durán was a lifetime member of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), often attending rallies and demonstrations. Just before he turned 90 last year, he traveled with FLOC to North Carolina to protest the treatment of migrant farmworkers in the tobacco fields.


He taught GED classes and served on numerous other boards, committees and commissions over the years.

Mr. Durán was preceded in death by his parents, Ysidro and Petra Durán, and his siblings: Esperanza, Delfina, Marٌía, and Petra. Durán is survived by his wife of 67 years, Emily; siblings José (wife Josefina deceased) Durán; Sesario and Lucy Durán and Ysidro and Vina Durán and Petra and Reyes Montes; four children: Sylvester Jr. (Margarita De León) Durán; Robert Durán (Sue Dianda); Yvonne (James) McHugh and Felicia Durán; 14 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren and many more primos, tios and tias.


A memorial mass will be held at SS. Peter and Paul Church for family members only. A celebration of his life is being postponed to a later date due to COVID-19.





Copyright © 1989 to 2020 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07/28/20 21:11:45 -0700.




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