William “Bill” Rivera, former editor of The Tidings newspaper and communications director for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, died on March 22 at the age of 94.
The first child of Pedro Salazar Rivera and Rita Cordova Rivera, William Cordova Rivera lived a rich life guided by his strong faith in God. Rivera built a successful career in public relations and education, starting as a publicist for LA’s Hollywood Stars minor league baseball team, while freelancing as a sports reporter and photographer for San Fernando Valley newspapers.
Rivera joined the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) as a public information officer, and later worked as communications director and superintendent special assistant. He served the archdiocese from 1988 to 1993 as director of media relations and editor of The Tidings newspaper, the predecessor of Angelus.
From humble beginnings in a rural stretch of what is now Canoga Park, Bill Rivera grew up in a tight-knit colony of about 10 families that came from Durango in northern Mexico. Everyone called him “Willie.” The young Rivera family was soon joined by a second son, Ramon, and by Rita’s brother, Angel, who was Willie’s age.
His childhood was soon marked by tragedy, however, as his mother died not long after giving birth to a baby girl, Dorothy, who also died. The boys were taken in by surrogate grandparents, Petra and Lucio Cruz, when Bill was 6 years old. Petra and Lucio would instill the values that would guide Bill for the rest of his life.
“It was these two giving people who ingrained in my brother and me the belief of caring for others, in giving of yourself with no thought of reward, in reaching out to those about us,” Bill said in a profile published several years ago in The Tidings and Vida Nueva newspapers.
Later, Rivera became the first person he knew to attend college (Los Angeles City College), where he was the first Mexican American to become editor of the school newspaper, The Collegian. There, he met the love of his life, Patricia Eileen Donnelly, who strode into the newsroom in a yellow dress and saddle shoes, looking to join the staff. They dated but later broke up (briefly) over a byline on a story — editor Rivera didn’t think cub reporter Donnelly had put in enough work to deserve one. Luckily for the seven children that eventually followed, the two made up and eventually married.
Petra and Lucio were devout Christians, who raised the boys in the Foursquare Gospel Church. Marriage to Donnelly brought Rivera back to the Catholic Church, and they were active members of Divine Saviour and St. Bernard parishes. They taught catechism and confirmation classes, and served on several committees at the archdiocesan level. They were active in the Marriage Encounter movement. In 1997, Bill was honored at the annual Cardinal’s Awards gala dinner for his service to the community.
During more than 50 years at LAUSD, Bill worked for 13 superintendents, spearheading behind-the-scenes efforts that led to the implementation of equal opportunities enabling minority people to advance and be promoted to administrative levels, as well as developing programs to assist economically disadvantaged students. Bill was proud of another behind-the-scenes accomplishment: spearheading the creation of the LAUSD All-City Marching Band in 1973 so that the district could deliver a band at the Pasadena Rose Parade that represented all students.
Bill finally retired in 2020, at age 92.
“I have tried to live my life by two precepts: Caring for others and giving of myself to others (some would say I am a soft touch); treating others as I would like them to treat me,” he wrote.
He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Patricia; his brother, retired Deacon Ramon Rivera; his oldest son, Matthew; and daughter-in-law, Ellen Potter Rivera. He is survived by children Robert (Katie Sauceda), Nancy (Jim Brooks), Katja (Robert Estes), John (Kate Shatzkin), Peter (Kelley Martel Rivera), and Andrew (Angela Wall); 14 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren; sister-in-law Josie Juarez Rivera; and several nieces and nephews, along with their children and grandchildren.
Funeral services were scheduled to be held at Rivera’s longtime parish, St. Bernard Church in Glassell Park.
Obituary courtesy of the Rivera family.