OBITUARY

Elena Vela

February 1, 1948April 2, 2021
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Retired lifetime educator and William B. Travis High School principal, Elena Vela 73, left this world on Good Friday, April 02, 2021 in her South Austin home. Elena was a trailblazer of education and equality for all. Her legacy as an educator lives on in the thousands of lives she touched during her thirty six year tenure with Austin ISD. After her formal retirement as an educator, Elena continued to serve as teacher and mentor for hundreds in Austin.

Elena was born February 01, 1948 in Laredo, TX to Ambrosio Jr. and Maria Del Socorro Vela. She was the fourth of eight children. She was preceded in death by her parents, Ambrosio Jr. and Maria Del Socorro Vela; her brothers, Armando and Raul Vela; her sisters, Maria Luisa V. Ramirez and spouse Jose Javier, Irma V. Trevino and spouse, Jose and their children, Annalaura, and Clarissa and sister, Laura Vela.

She is survived by twin brothers, Alberto (Irma) Vela, Nephew, Alberto Jr. (Majorie) and Alfredo (Rosie) Vela, Nephew, AJ (Bell) Vela, and Christian Vela, Niece, Bianca Vela; Niece, Gina (Hugo) Sanchez, Grand Nephew, Alejandro G. Sanchez; Nephew, Lt. Colonel Gabriel (Marcia) Ramirez; Sister-in-Law, Juanita Vela (Raul), Nephew, Raul (Adriana) Vela, Niece, Claudia Vela-Leal (Ernie); Niece, Marissa (Rodolfo) Morales, Grand Nephew, Rudy Morales, Grand Niece, Selena M. Lewis, lifetime best friend, Maria Isabel Cortez, and other loved family members and friends.

Elena graduated in 1966 from Martin High School in Laredo, TX. She was awarded a Bachelor’s of Education from Texas A&I University in Kingsville in 1971 and a Masters of Education from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos in 1975.

Elena’s lifetime commitment to education was all with the AISD. She began her career in 1971 as a Physical Education (PE) teacher at Brentwood Elementary. In 1975, Elena was hired as a History teacher and Assistant coach at McCallum High School. In 1976, Elena became the Dean of Girls at William B. Travis High School. She was later an Assistant Principal at Travis HS from 1976 - 1984. In 1984 Elena became the First Hispanic Woman Principal of a High School in Austin, Texas. She served as Principal of William B. Travis from 1984-1996. In 1996 Elena moved to a position at the AISD central office where she served as an Administrative Supervisor over the Department of Professional Development. Elena completed her career with Austin ISD in the capacity of Human Resources Coordinator at CAC from 1999-2007.

Elena received many accolades during her tenure at the Austin ISD including Administrator of the Year by Texas Association of Journalism Educators in 1985; Texas Industrial Vocational Association - Outstanding Administrator Award - 1986; City of Austin, Elena Vela Day May 30, 1986; A+ Principal of the Year by Austin Adopt a School Program - 1987; Danforth Fellowship National Award - 1988; Top Ten Outstanding Women Leaders in Austin - 1990; Texas Association of Secondary School Principals - Outstanding Principal - High School 1992-93; Austin ISD - Hispanic Heritage Award 1993 Friend of Education Award; 1976-1996, 20 yrs of service - William B. Travis High School National Association of Secondary School Principals 1984-1996; The State of Texas Honors William B. Travis HS - Texas Mentor School; AISD - Common Bonds Diversity Program recognized as a “Promising Practice” by President Bill Clinton’s Race Initiative, November 1998. University of Texas at Austin, Phi Delta Kappa, Chapter President 2008-2010.

After retiring, she continued educating and mentoring in the Austin community. She was an active member and President of the University of Texas at Austin, Phi Delta Kappa. An Associate of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Catholic Daughters of America, Adult ESL teacher, Bible Study Teacher/Facilitator/Attendee, CRHP Participant, and Eucharistic Minister of the Eucharist at St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church.

Visitation 4:30 pm - 7:00 pm on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church, 126 W. Oltorf St. Austin, Texas with Recitation of the Holy Rosary to begin at 6:30 pm.

Funeral Mass 10:00 am on Wednesday, April 14, 2021 at St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church, 126 W. Oltorf St. Austin, Texas.

A public graveside burial service will be held in the family plot in the Laredo City Cemetery, 3200 N. Meadow Ave, in Laredo, Texas at 10:00 am on Thursday, April 15, 2021.

Pallbearers will be: Alberto Vela, Alfredo Vela, Lt. Col. Gabriel Ramirez, Alejandro Sanchez, Raul Vela Jr., Rudy Morales Jr.

You may express your condolences and sign the guestbook online at: https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/austin-tx/elena-vela-10135641

In lieu of flowers, the Vela family requests memorial contributions be made in her name for the Austin Retired Teachers - “ARTA Foundation Fund” ℅ Linda Harvey, Treasurer, P.O. Box 143483, Austin, Texas 78714. The ARTA Foundation Fund awards 14 High School Scholarships to deserving high school seniors in each of the Austin ISD High Schools. Elena’s mantra was education for all so that young people can achieve their fullest potential. Your donation keeps her legacy alive.

A very special thank you to Irma Trevino, Beatriz Negrete and Mary Alice Castillo for providing such amazing caregiving for Elena. Thank you Frances Miller Martinez, Jessica Balandran, Rosa Pena, Father John, and Duve Rodriguez for assisting in the organization of Elena’s Celebration of Life.

  • PALLBEARERS

  • Alberto Vela, Pallbearer
  • Alfredo Vela, Pallbearer
  • Lt. Col. Gabriel Ramirez, Pallbearer
  • Alejandro Sanchez, Pallbearer
  • Raul Vela Jr., Pallbearer
  • Rudy Morales, Jr., Pallbearer
  • DONATIONS

  • Austin Retired Teachers "ARTA Foundation Fund" c/o Linda Harvey, Treasurer

Services

  • Visitation

    Tuesday, April 13, 2021

  • Recitation of the Holy Rosary

    Tuesday, April 13, 2021

  • Funeral Mass

    Wednesday, April 14, 2021

    VIEW VIDEO

  • Interment

    Thursday, April 15, 2021

Memories

Elena Vela

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Anastasia Leibas-Thompson

April 15, 2021

Ms. Vela you made a big impact in my life. You caught me skipping your first day as Vice Principal at Travis and made me go to class. I stopped going to school altogether until one day my mom said she would give me a piece of land if I graduated H. S. I reached out to you and you put me back in school I graduated H. S. in 3 months and I did get the land. I then joined the Air Force for 16 years. I came home on leave and we met at Luby's and I told you I was pregnant. I told you if I have a girl I would name her after you. Her name and your namesake is Analicia Elena. Then I had my son Juan Ignacio. You were extremely proud of them with their education and now both are in the military. I am so glad you meet them when we came back to Austin. While you were at H. R. you got me a job I still have to this day since I was highly recommended by you and I was so proud that I didn't want to let you down. I wouldn't be where I am in my life if it wasn't for your guidance and support. I'm forever grateful to you and I'm so glad to have spent time with you before you left us. I will miss you but you will not be forgotten. Rest In Peace.

Carol Harris-Fike (aka Brandon)

April 15, 2021

I remember Elena so fondly from my years as a principal in AISD (1984-1993). Elena always stood out among many great leaders in AISD. Her life is a testimony to what education is all about... supporting the creation of meaning and purpose for all touched by the educator. Blessings on family and friends who will hold her in their hearts forever.

Marta Montalvo Bennett

April 14, 2021

Dearest Alberto and Alfredo Vela and families ; Gina and Hugo Sanchez and Alejandro Sanchez and all nieces, nephews , cousins of all generations .Elena was named after my mother Elena Vela Montalvo , sister of Ambrosio Vela. She was soo special and had a smile always. She was a joy to all.Your name continues with my beautiful granddaughter Elena Luisa Bennett-Raffucci a joy as well,She is 6 years old. You will be missed very much by so many and I have great pride in your trailblazing influence in our familia. I love you Elena Vela and will truly be missed. Now rest in God's arms. Love, Martita

Lydia Lopez

April 14, 2021

Ms. Vela you were truly a wonderful educator. I went to Travis High School in the early 80's. My favorite memory of Ms. Vela, I would hear her walking behind me in her heels, if I was late, or cutting a class. After several talks in your principal's office lol, you instilled in me to concentrate on my studies, and to get an education. Being Hispanic you always pushed us a little harder. I thank you for this. Years later this led me to join the military, and still to this day a government career. You were truly a genuine, wonderful person, teacher, principal and friend - you were a blessing to so many of us! My sincere deepest condolences to the family, close friends and caretakers of this truly extraordinary woman of Faith. We love and miss you. Go fly high with the Angels! Rest in God's arms wonderful and faithful servant.

Patricia Adams

April 13, 2021

I met Elena Vela, Asst. Principal, who would then become the 1st hispanic High School principal, at Wm. B. Travis High, in 1982-86, where I was hired as its' 1st & youngest hispanic school nurse. Elena Vela, you made me feel very welcome & supported! You left your mark amongst your peers, your students, your school! You will live on through all those whose lives you touched...rest in eternal peace. Patricia A. (Castaneda) Adams, RN

Patricia Martinez

April 13, 2021

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to be taught and coached by such a special person. You will always be in my heart Ms .Vela......Tudi

Kelly Kirkland

April 12, 2021

Thank you for the life and gifts of Ms. Vela. I was a student in her PE class at Brentwood Elementary in the early '70s. She was a bundle of energy; and I will always remember her innovative teaching of different kinds of physical activity.

Martha Hilario-Hernandez

April 12, 2021

My deepest sympathies to the family of Ms. Elena Vela. Elena graduated from Martin High School with my sister, Margarita Hilario who became a Spanish teacher & later a nun by the name of Sister Gertrude with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. I remember Elena as being a good friend of my sister Margie during their high school years in Laredo. In 1988, when Elena was Travis High School Principal, Elena gave me the opportunity to teach at her school for weekly half days due to the fact that I was also teaching at Reagan High School, but was having difficulties with my second pregnancy. I am forever grateful to Elena for helping me out during this difficult time of my life. Rest In Peace, Ms. Vela. You were a beautiful & wonderful lady who cared for not only your students, but also your faculty & staff. You were also an outstanding administrator. Give a big hug from me to my dear sister Margie in Heaven & enjoy your reunion with her.

Eddy Dunn

April 11, 2021

Mrs. Vela was the best Vice Principal to ever be. She tough but fair and always thought I was worth more than I thought. She will be greatly missed and may God bless and keep her family.

Kris Hafezizadeh

April 11, 2021

Ms. Vela was one of the first people welcomed me to Austin I.S.D. Transportation on April 30, 2004.
I had the pleasure of working with her directly for many years until she retired from the district. Elena was a caring and funny lady. She was always responsive to the needs of our department. Rest In peace my friend.
Kris Hafezizadeh

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