Manuel LaForm, a hardworking but humble activist in Sacramento's Gardenland neighborhood, died July 23 of age-related complications, his family said. He was 88.
Mr. LaForm settled in 1957 in Gardenland, a neglected neighborhood of working-class families. After serving his country in World War II, he dedicated himself to helping his community.
He was an early member of the Gardenland Community Council, a group of residents organized during the 1960s to push for improvements. After one of his son's friends was killed by a drunken driver on Northgate Boulevard, he worked to get the city to install streetlights, sidewalks and speed bumps in the area.
He helped start a neighborhood cleanup project and served on the Gardenland/Noralto Target Area Committee, a city advisory group. He volunteered for many years with Stanford Settlement's programs to help poor and homeless people.
"Manuel was such a warm, welcoming person," said Sister Jeanne Felion of Stanford Settlement. "He and his wife were very heavily invested in their family and the community."
Mr. LaForm also was active in political causes. He donated money to Democratic candidates and supported Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. Upon learning about a relative who had been victimized by an abusive spouse, he gathered signatures on a petition seeking tougher laws against domestic violence.
"He was always very much concerned about the little guy who couldn't protect himself," said his son Jim.
The son of a Mexican immigrant mother and a Canadian immigrant father, Mr. LaForm was born in 1923 in El Paso, Texas. He started working at 6, selling newspapers to help support his family during the Great Depression.
After high school, he enlisted in the Army at the start of World War II and served as a B-24 Liberator radio operator and gunner. He was wounded in fighting in the Pacific Theater but never sought a Purple Heart or spoke about the attack.
"He said the real heroes were the ones who died in the war," his son said.
Mr. LaForm spent 30 years at McClellan Air Force Base as an aircraft mechanic and a supervisor. After retiring, he earned an associate degree at American River College. He then went back to work for the state Franchise Tax Board as a seasonal employee until well into his 80s.
Besides working and volunteering for many years, Mr. LaForm was a devoted patriarch of four generations. He raised six children with his wife of 63 years, Ofelia, and helped raise some of his grandchildren.
"He was selfless," his son said. "He wanted to show his children that we owe this to our country and community. He led by example."