Nicholas Hernandez

September 5, 1944May 15, 2018

Nicholas Hernandez…Vietnam Veteran, Labor Leader, Educator, Community Activist, Founder, Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego.

Nicholas was born in Sombrerete, Zacatecas, Mexico and immigrated to San Diego at 7; he lived here for 66 years. Nick’s parents were Sixto Reyes Hernandez and Rosa Torres and was also preceded in death by his brother Manuel, sisters, Catalina, Rachael and Candelaria. He is survived by his wife of fifty-five years, Connie, four children and their spouses, Nicholas, Clarissa Castillo (Raul), Carina Hernandez-Carrillo (Mark), Concepcion (Lonnie), nine grandchildren, Raul, Mommies, Brenda, Athena, Matthew, Buddy, Moses, Linda Rose, and Cass, one great-grandson, Jayden, brothers, Paul, Joe, and Frank, sisters, Celia, Salome, Jessie, Carmen and Lola and numerous nieces and nephews. His family was always his first love and priority but managed to serve in many professional capacities, community activism, and founding a local charity.

He would recall as a child riding horses and plowing the fields with his father on a ranch in Mexico. It is from his parents that at an early age he inherited his unwavering work ethic, commitment to family and community, and faith in God. When he came to the United States as a seven year old, he spoke very little English and was frustrated with his Kindergarten teacher who spoke no Spanish. Seven year-old Nick was not impressed. Even with that educational start he went on to earn a Bachelors Degree in History, a Teaching Credential from San Diego State University and studied at the George Meany Labor Studies Institute in Maryland.

He began his professional career as a Finish Carpenter and rose to serve as Business Agent and Financial Secretary of Carpenter’s Local 2020. Nick also served as a Trustee on the Carpenter’s Pension and Health and Welfare Trust and the Southern California Lumberman’s Pension and Health and Welfare Trust.

He worked for the national AFL-CIO, a proud friend to Cesar Chavez especially during his boycotts and marches throughout California. Cesar often called on Nick and local labor organizations to assist in these efforts. During his time in San Diego, Cesar, his most trusted confidants, and his dogs Boycott and Huelga, would spend the night with the Hernandez family.

Vietnam and Uncle Sam called Nicolas to serve in 1967; he was a combat infantryman, a medic and a machine gunner in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam near Pleiku earning many service medals including two purple hearts. He was a patriot and would always speak of the importance of honoring veterans.

Upon returning home, he worked in the trade and then joined the leadership of the union and continued to serve as a labor leader for over 20 years. During that time he created many union job opportunities for the communities of color and women…always ready to help young men and women and always ready to lead or join a picket line for a just cause. Additionally, he coached little league, his daughter’s softball teams and never missed a football, baseball, softball, or basketball game for his children and grandchildren.

Nicolas supported many local elected officials through campaigning, walking precincts, and mobilizing voter registration drives; recruiting and organizing community members. He served on United Way of San Diego’s Latino Future Scan, the Mayor’s Latino Advisory Committee, and founded the local chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. He worked with the San Diego and Imperial Valley Labor Council, San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, member of the VFW, Don Diego Post, worked for AmeriCorps, Corporation for National and Community Service, and was the Director of MAAC Project’s first YouthBuild program.

After working in the trades and labor, and various professional organizations, Nick earned a teaching credential and began working for the Sweetwater High School District teaching History, Social Studies, and Special Education classes and then went on to teach Adult Education. His career ended full circle as he taught a Building Maintenance Class, specializing in Carpentry, Plumbing, and Electrical trades. He especially enjoyed teaching the many veterans who participated in his classes. He never retired by choice, he loved his job and helping many of the veterans in his class. His war stories are legendary and his students provided a perfect audience. His career concluded full circle as he began working as a carpenter and ended teaching a profession he mastered. His students call him, Maestro.

Nick volunteered with many organizations including, the Cesar Chavez Service Clubs, coordinated campaigns for the Southwest Voter and Registration Project, and was a founding board member of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego.

He received awards for his outstanding work for the community in Labor from: The Barrio Station, Rayos del Sol Award, and for his service as a Board founder/member of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego.

Nick and Connie lost a son to leukemia in 1976 and their grief turned to community action as founding members of the local Ronald McDonald House here in San Diego. During the construction of the house, because of his labor associations, Nick approached organized labor unions and they provided most of the labor free of cost. Nick served as President of the Board of Directors of the Charity and continued to help up until last week when his students presented Super Hero themed jewelry boxes to the current residents. The San Diego Ronald McDonald House was the 19th house to open in the United States; today there are over 300 houses in every continent, all over the world. Nick considered the founding of the RMH, a “Home Away From Home” and, “The House that Love Built,” as his most proud achievement…this movement helped heal the loss of his son, brought hope and comfort to thousands of families and provided a sense of pride in honoring the memory of his son, Matthew.

Through his many careers, Nicolas served his community as an ardent soldier in labor, politics, an advocate for education and veteran rights, was passionate about social justice, working with community groups promoting opportunities for all. He will be remembered for his unparalleled work ethic his devotion to family. He was a gentleman, an historian, community activist, labor leader, educator, war hero, and head of a family of achievers guided and influenced by his example. Most important he was a good son, brother, a devoted husband, father, grandfather, uncle, Nino, compadre, friend, hero, role model, and an outstanding human being. Nick touched thousands of lives through his work and caring spirit and he will live on through his family and legacy of good work.

Rosary at 11:00 a.m., Funeral Mass at 11:30 a.m., Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 1770 Kearney Avenue, San Diego, CA 92113. Military internment, Miramar National Cemetery at 2:p.m.


  • Rosary Thursday, May 24, 2018
  • Funeral Mass Thursday, May 24, 2018
  • Committal Service Thursday, May 24, 2018

Nicholas Hernandez

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Clarissa Castillo

July 4, 2018

My dad was one of a kind. He was respected by all and loved by many. He was a man's man but underneath he was my dad, he was kind, loving and always there for any question I had. He was wise and smart and knew about history, politics, other languages and everything else. He was an example to me and to all of what a real man, father, Tata, brother, husband and friend is supposed to be. He adored my mom, his children and grandchildren. Those who knew him know how unique he was, how special, a true one in a million. People always looked up to him. I am blessed to have him as my dad and my boys are blessed to have had him in their lives. He is the best example they could have ever had. They will have to work hard to follow the legacy he has left, to be a man like their Tata. He will always be loved, cherished and respected by all who knew him. I think of you always and miss you.
Love you dad.

John Neill

July 3, 2018

I remember when I first went over to Nick and Bebe's house for a party to meet a lot of Amanda's family. I was nervous and uncertain about meeting my wife's family. Uncle Nick was sitting on the couch watching TV. He was very friendly and made me feel comfortable and welcome. He always made me feel a part of the family. He was a good husband, father, uncle, provider, and friend. If I had to pick one man that I would consider to be a role model and who I would like to be more like, it would definitely be Nicholas Hernandez. Rest in peace, Nick and may his family find comfort and peace in their time of loss.
-John Neill

Victoria Hernandez

July 3, 2018

My Tata--
The greatest husband, father, grandfather, and man I'll ever know. You came from Zacatecas, Mexico at age 7 and began working in the 5th grade on the weekends to pay your catholic school tuition and never stopped. You got drafted into the Vietnam war and courageously earned two Purple Hearts. You lost a child to leukemia and in turn founded the Ronald McDonald house charity of San Diego. You graduated from San Diego State University and became a teacher to many. You were a skilled carpenter and fierce labor leader. You fought along side Cesar Chavez and the farm workers union for equality. You have been apart of numerous other fights for social justice all while remaining the charismatic, strong, hardworking, loving and humble human being that you are. You are truly a treasure and I'm so proud to be your granddaughter. As nana always says, the best thing I can do to honor your legacy is to live my life the way you did and that's exactly what I plan on doing. RIP to the greatest. I love you Tata

Carina Hernandez-Carrillo

July 3, 2018

With a boundless sense of pride that cannot be experienced unless it is gifted to you in life … this is how my father will remain with me.

I will strive to live up to his example in taking care of my son. I will be brave and more courageous in life. I will take comfort in what comes next knowing he will be waiting there to take care of us.

To my Matthew,
Let Tata’s embodiment of a man be the model that you strive to emulate always;

Love God first…go to church, be respectful and devout,

Care for your family with loyalty and compassion…love your babies and adore your wife,

Protect those you love with tenacity…be vigilant and brave in the face of danger and pain,

Treat everyone with respect…be polite, always be an example of chivalry and carry a handkerchief,

Work hard and do your best in everything you attempt,

Don’t ever quit anything you start…period,

Fight for causes that are worthy, meaningful and that help others,

Be dependable…always keep your word, be someone people can count on,

Always have money in your pocket…don’t hesitate to be generous or pick up the tab,

Go to school…teach others what you learn especially your children,

Build things with passion…fences, cabinets, houses, gardens, artificial hearts, masterpieces, etc.,

Don’t forget to have fun, have a glass of wine here or there, dance, sing, and tell jokes when appropriate,

Most importantly be brave enough to do the right thing…especially when it’s tough,

To be like Tata is to carry yourself with strength, courage and pride and yet still be humble and kind enough to hold your hand out to those most in need.

We can keep Tata with us and show how much we love him by following his lead. You have it in you to do this…all his grandchildren do.

I Love you Daddy

Matthew Carrillo

July 3, 2018

What a man my Tata was. He was the best Tata out there. I remember when I was little my dad would tell me numerous times how good of a man Tata was. My dad had so many countless story's about my Tata. He loved my Tata like a best friend. Everyone attending my Tata's reception had something in common, they loved my Tata too. I have always wanted to be like my Tata. I remember when I was younger I would watch my Tata working on his projects outside. As I looked outside I could see all my cousins getting together to help him. You would be able to see everyone from Buddy to Lito, it was an amazing sight.
MyTata was a wonderful husband. When I was in fourth grade he built my Nana a new kitchen. That's just one of my memories because he did so many other things. He took care of everyone he knew. From his family and from people outside of the family. I am so proud of what he has done, I am so lucky to call him my Tata.
While growing up I was practically living at my Tata's house house. When my mom would have to work days and nights I would be at Nana's house. He was always there all day, from 2:15 after school until my mom came and picked me up. On longer nights I would go and sleep in my Nana's bed with them. I remember when I had gotten in really big trouble for doing something very stupid. While people were upset I remember my Tata pulling me aside and saying, "Matthew if you ever need anything and I mean anything come straight to me". That was a very powerful message to me and it stuck with me. He was not only my Tata but my friend and a man I wanted to be. He went to almost every single one of my games growing up. He has attended my basketball games, my football games, and my baseball games too. He would always be there and I always knew where to find him in the stands. I have learned so much from him and I wish I could have learned more. I know I have an angel watching over and protecting me. I can't wait to see him again. I love you Tata, I will see you later.

Athena Chenot

July 1, 2018

Through out my whole life I remember my Tata was always there, and now that he's gone it feels like something's missing. I remember him laughing hard and yelling at me and my cousins when I was little, these little things make me very happy and extremely sad. He's was someone that everyone loved and someone who I miss dearly. Sometimes it even feels like he's still here, because it's hard for me to imagine my life without him in it. Although he's gone, I know he's still with me but I wish I could hear him yell at us one more time or laugh, or talk about his war stories. I'll always remember him, and his love, and memory will live on through us.

Marcus A. Ojeda

June 30, 2018

As far as I can remember, which would be the early 60's,
Nick Hernandez has been in my life. He was always a gentleman & polite with everyone..
He would play with us and make us laugh. When he would catch us picking our nose he would call out "Minor Jack"!
My cat Calico got sick when she was gonna have kittens, Nick paid for her operation & saved her life.
90 bucks back then was a lot of money.. From that day I knew I would always have his back.
When he sent home pictures from boot camp, my little sister & I laughed and laughed because of his crew cut. Being so young we didn't quite understand the seriousness of him leaving to war in Vietnam.. When he came back, he was the same Nick. Other than a few scars from being wounded. He would say the bombs and bullets bounced off him.
He would tell me about all the rain, the animals he saw and the rats that crawled over them in the night.
Then the movie Platoon came out.. That is when he started to share his stories of the war.
It was then we realized what he had been through..
Upon his return from Vietnam, there was a welcome back party and soon after
my sister Bebe & Nick were married. My brother, my little sis & many others were in the wedding. I was proudly the ring boy.
The big celebration was held at The El Cortez Hotel.
Nick took me up on the roof so we could check out the view. He told me this is the
tallest building in the city, then he gave me a puff of his cigar..
Nick was very proud of his heritage., always ready to yell "Que Viva Zacatecas"..
We went to the fights at The Coliseum, pulled for the Chargers, attended weddings, Baptisms, funerals, birthday parties and so many celebrations and events.
Nick was more than my brother in law, he was my mentor, my big brother, my friend,
my buddy..
Thank you for all you did for us.
Thank you for being a fine example of how a man should be.
I will never forget you Nick and will miss you more than words can say...
See you at the "After Party" Ese.. Marcus

Raul Castillo

June 30, 2018

My Tata was an amazing man that cared about his community, family, and friends. I could write a book on all of his accomplishments he achieved as a worker and a father but I want to share why my Tata was special to me. I remember growing up and having to do school projects on influential individuals and I would always pick my Tata. He was a real life super hero to me. I always enjoyed when he would tell me stories about his time working in the union, his service in Vietnam and my favorite stories were always about the family. As I continued to grow my admiration for him continued to grow. When I think of how a man should present himself I always try to follow his example. He was my number one fan and I hope that he know that I was his number one fan too. I could always count on my Tata attending my games and cheer in the stands. I know he is still watching and I am going to try my best to make him proud. I would always look forward to helping Tata with his many projects. He taught me the right way to use a hammer and the most important lesson was to never give up and don’t be afraid to start over. We built fence, a deck, sheds and everything in between. Looking back my Tata would say “ that sand paper and glue make a carpenter what he ain’t”, I learned that mistakes could always be fixed and even an old beaten down piece of furniture could be transformed into a beautiful work of art. What I will miss the most is his personality he always had a joke and was a pleasure to be around. We could watch any sport at any time and just watching the game with him was a blast. My Tata was one of a kind he was caring and loving but also did what he had to do to take care of his family. I will treasure the time that I had with him and I will strive to be just like him.

Raul “Lito” Castillo

Valentina Ojeda

June 30, 2018

My Tio was the "Real Deal". A true gentleman, leader, hero and loving family man. As kids, Uncle Nick and Aunt Bebe's house was our second home, always filled with jokes, laughter, love, music and yummy food! A place where everyone was always welcome. And I always felt safe when my Tio was there. So many memories of him - his mustache, his funny expressions, his laughter, his words of wisdom and kindness. I got to witness the magical love and adoration he had for Aunt Bebe, his "Reina". Thank you for teaching me the importance of hard work, strong conviction and loyalty to family. I am so grateful and proud to have had such a great example of a man as my Tio. I love you.

Mandy Neill

June 25, 2018

I love you Uncle Nick (Nino)
As I write this I am flooded with memories and emotion. They do not make many men like you, so few that I imagine not everyone has the opportunity in life to know someone as great as you. I am blessed to say I was one of the few to have had the honor of knowing , loving and learning from such an inspiring role model. I will cherish memories of discussions and lessons about sports, politics, unions, activism, humanity, war, art, love and more. You always cared for all your children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren as if we were your own. I will forever be grateful for that. I will seek comfort in the faith that you are now with family in heaven where we will meet again. God bless You always!