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ben_miranda.jpg
Former Arizona Rep. Ben Miranda (Twitter photo/@elviadiaz1)

PHOENIX -- Former state Rep. Ben Miranda will be remembered Monday morning during a service at Saint Agnes Catholic Church in Phoenix. Burial for the decorated Vietnam veteran will follow at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona in Cave Creek at 2 p.m. The public is invited to the American Legion Post 41, 715 S. 2nd Ave., Phoenix, after the burial to commemorate his life.

Born in Texas, Miranda grew up in a migrant farm family that eventually settled in Phoenix. After graduating from high school, Miranda joined the U.S. Army, served in Vietnam and received a Bronze Star. Miranda used his GI Bill to earn a law degree, and he spent more than 25 years as a personal injury attorney.

I first met Miranda in the late 1990s when he represented the family of 13-year-old Grizelda Zamora. She died from a ruptured appendix shortly after her Spanish-speaking parents tried to get medical help. Miranda fought for improvements in the way low-income and non-English speakers received treatment.

He received numerous honors for his community and public service, including the city of Phoenix's First Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "Living the Dream" Award.

Miranda represented District 16 from 2002-2010. When I last saw him a couple of years ago in downtown Phoenix, Miranda proudly smiled, put his arm around his wife, Catherine, and said, "She replaced me at the legislature".

Miranda is survived by his wife, two daughters and five grandchildren. The family has established the Ben Miranda Memorial Donation Fund. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo location.

The following information was provided by the Miranda family:

Funeral:

Services will be held Monday, Nov. 25, at Saint Agnes Catholic Church, 1954 N. 24 Street, Phoenix, 85008, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. followed by Mass. Miranda's burial will take place at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona, 23029 N. Cave Creek Road, Phoenix, AZ 85024 at 2 p.m. Following the burial, the public is invited to convene at the American Legion Post 41, 715 S. Second Ave., Phoenix, 85003, to commemorate the life of former Representative Ben Miranda.

Family:

Miranda was a dedicated husband to Rep. Catherine Hernandez Miranda and was a devoted father to his daughters, Maritza Miranda-Saenz and Elisa Miranda. He was also the proud grandfather of Mariella, Abraham, Erin, Marie and Naomi.

Ben and Catherine Miranda met while Catherine was teaching at a school in the Roosevelt School District. The school principal, a friend of Catherine's, often invited Ben to her classroom to read to the children. After several of these visits, Ben invited her on a date, and seven years later their love has continued. Monday, Nov. 18, was the couple's seventh anniversary.

Early Years:

Miranda grew up in a migrant farm family and was one of 11 children. He was born in Texas but traveled with his family across the country as they harvested different crops throughout the year. During this time, he attended single-room schools and lived in camps with up to 5,000 immigrant farm workers. By the time he was 10 years old, he had attended more than 15 different elementary schools.

Eventually, his family settled in Arizona, first in Gila Bend and then in Phoenix, where he humbly lived in the Marcos de Niza Housing Project. He graduated from Phoenix Union High School and then served in the Vietnam conflict for more than a year. One of Miranda's proudest accomplishments was when the late Sen. Barry Goldwater awarded him the Bronze Star, one of the country's top military decorations for bravery, heroism or meritorious service.

To live up to his dreams, he used his GI Bill to pay for his studies at Phoenix College and Arizona State University. He went on to receive a juris doctorate and the Dean's Award from the Sandra Day O'Connor School of Law at ASU, where his efforts to recruit more minority law students yielded a 50 percent enrollment increase.

Law Career:

Miranda was a practicing personal injury attorney who had been helping Arizonans for more than 25 years. His goal was to ensure his clients were treated with dignity. One of the most noteworthy cases he worked on involved a 13-year-old girl who died from a ruptured appendix after allegedly being denied timely medical attention. This case had significant implications for the quality of medical treatment for low-income families in Arizona.

Miranda was constantly asked if Ernesto Miranda from the famed case Miranda v. Arizona was related to him, and he would reply that there was no blood relation. However, at one time, he was a client. Another high-profile client that Miranda worked closely with for eight years until his death was activist leader Cesar Chavez.

During the course of his career, Miranda donated more than a million dollars to schools, community organizations and charities. Many of these donations were used for scholarships, teachers' organizations, sports teams and legal advocates. Additionally, his firm, Miranda Law, donated thousands of hours of free legal advice to the community.

His legacy of public service was recognized in 1994, when he received the city of Phoenix's first annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "Living the Dream" Award.

Elected Service:

Voters elected Miranda to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2002 and he served until 2010. While in the House, he was selected to be the chairman of the Arizona Latino Caucus several times. In 2007, the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators awarded him the John S. Martinez Leadership Award. NHCSL gives this award annually to a Hispanic legislator who exhibits passion, dedication and achievements in his or her political career.

New York assemblyman Felix Ortiz, then-president of NHCSL, said Miranda "consistently demonstrated a unique commitment to many causes, especially his efforts to ensure that the immigrant community receives fairness and justice."

In 2012, Miranda was elected to the Maricopa County Community College District governing board with about 60 percent of the vote. He was one of five members of the board that oversees the $1.5 billion budget and policies for 10 community colleges. He also served on the governing boards of the Roosevelt and Phoenix Union High school districts.

Community Service:

Miranda leaves an inspirational legacy of community service. As a United Farm Workers attorney, Miranda was dedicated to helping immigrant workers get fair and equal treatment under the law. His commitment to this cause was so deep that in 1993 when UFW Founder Cesar Chavez passed away, Miranda paid to have his body flown back to Bakersfield, Calif.

Miranda had a passion for helping the underserved, which led him to establish Proyecto Manzana, or Project Apple, with the mission of promoting citizenship for its participants, advocating for human and legal rights and maintaining participation in education and civic matters of all its members.

Miranda was also the co-founder of the Manzana Foundation, which helps students prepare for college. He worked with his wif to develop this foundation, which partnered with the Navajo Technical College to extend accredited courses in the Phoenix area. Miranda shared his wife's goal of ensuring that DREAM Act students would have the opportunity to pursue an affordable education. Through the Manzana Foundation, he also provided high school and college students the ability to earn administrative experience with internships.

Miranda often met with local, elected leaders across Central and South America. He also served on the boards of the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association, American Red Cross and Valle del Sol. In addition to hosting a weekly television program on legal issues, Miranda represented the city of Avondale, Pacific Gas and Electric, and Local 383, AFL-CIO.

Miranda's dedication to his "pueblo" (people) will have a lasting effect on the community. His public service not only helped thousands of individuals, but inspired many to pursue their dreams and give back to those in need. Miranda always lent a hand to support and assist others without expecting anything in return. The Latino community has not had a loss this impactful since the death of Cesar Chavez. A generation loses a leader, a friend and a family member, but gains an immortal legacy by the name of Ben Miranda.

Christina Estes, Reporter

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