Family, friends mourn death of former San Benito school board president

dfwnewsa | January 5, 2024 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

Family, friends mourn death of former San Benito school board president
Michael Vargas

SAN BENITO — Family and friends are remembering former San Benito school board President Michael Vargas as a passionate community leader who fought to better public education.


Vargas, who served on the school board from 2015 to 2019, died Thursday.

“Friends and family, it comes with great sadness to announce that my brother, Michael Anthony Vargas, has passed away,” Joe Vargas, his brother, posted on Facebook. “I enjoyed every moment I got to spend with him and hope to keep those memories close to myself and our families’ hearts for years to come.”

For years, Orlando Lopez, the San Benito school board’s president, served with Vargas on the board, working to hire former Superintendent Nate Carman while pushing for a $40 million bond issue which is funding construction of the district’s first performing arts theater and aquatics center.

”Not only was Michael a lifelong advocate for promoting education, service and opportunities for advancement for all, he exemplified the spirit of living and leading with a kind heart, a great mind, a brave soul, compassion for others and wisdom beyond his years,” Lopez said in a statement.

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”He was a phenomenal person and I am proud to call him my colleague, my friend and my brother,” he said. “His presence will be sorely missed by so many. May we all find comfort and peace knowing that he is in a better place and that his spirit will live on in the memories of the many lives he touched.”

For school board Vice President Ariel Cruz, Vargas was a mentor.

“Michael wanted to make a difference,” she posted on Facebook. “He did just that. Specifically, he made a difference in my life way before he even knew who I was.”

“When I was in seventh grade, I found myself looking up to members of the San Benito High School Class of 2005 — Michael’s class,” she wrote. “I looked up to Michael because he was a kid from my grandparents neighborhood, El Jardin, and he was graduating salutatorian. On top of all that, he was heading to an Ivy League school, Brown University. I was amazed at the significance of this accomplishment and was inspired by it.”


“Years later, when Michael came back to San Benito and ran for school board, I was captivated by how close he remained with all his San Benito friends and how determined he was to give back to his hometown and make our school district and community better for future generations,” she wrote. “When I ran for school board, he was encouraging and said if I needed advice, he was only a phone call away, which he was. Through this journey, we became friends. I am going to miss his smile, his laugh and, most importantly, his friendship.”

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In San Benito, City Commissioner Carol Lynn Sanchez was Vargas’ close friend and supporter.

“I have so much to say yet can’t put into words how I feel,” she posted on Facebook. “We were meant to rule the world together. We all lost such a smart, charming, hard working, funny, passionate and feisty soul today. I’ll always love you, Michael Anthony Vargas.”

In Harlingen, Vargas helped Eladio Jaimez during his first run for a Harlingen school board seat in 2016.

“I can’t remember exactly when, where or how we met but it was during my first campaign in 2016,” Jaimez posted on Facebook. “Michael had won his first race about a year earlier and he reached out to offer advice and help. We quickly became friends and I admired his fight and the way he advocated for public education across the country but especially en su San Benito querido.”

”He was loved by so many and he supported all his friends always. He loved his community and served with a heart full of love, joy and compassion. He was one of the good ones. I’m going to miss him. Rest easy, Michael. We’ll take it from here.”

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In 2015, Vargas, a Brown University graduate, won election to the San Benito school board’s Place 1 seat before he was appointed board president in 2017.

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