SAN ANTONIO – A public memorial service is being planned for Dr. Fernando Guerra, the former director of the Metropolitan Health District for 23 years before his retirement in 2010.
Beverly Purcell Guerra, his wife of 39 years, said because of her husband’s devotion to public health and the ongoing COVID-19 surge, the service will be held “sometime in the future.”
She said Dr. Guerra passed away peacefully at the age of 82 last Friday after, “an extended time with several health issues.”
Since then, Guerra said she, their six children, and large extended family have been reminiscing.
“It brings tears. It brings laughter and it’s almost like a seesaw. But it’s a beautiful time for memories of my dear Fernando,” she said.
She said they’ve also been touched by the many tributes and messages they’ve received honoring Dr. Guerra.
“It has just brought him so back to life for us as a family,” Guerra said.
Former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros said Dr. Guerra was “The best example of what, how a person can build a contributing life, extremely hard working.”
Not only did Dr. Guerra contend with the AIDS epidemic at its peak, Cisneros said, “He dealt with the epidemic we had of gang violence and interpreted it as a health problem, focusing on some of the inadequacies in the lives of the young people.”
He said given Dr. Guerra’s nationally recognized expertise in public health, having also earned a master’s degree from Harvard, “He could have been Surgeon General of the United States, for example, could have been Secretary of Health and Human Services, for sure.”
Cisneros said after spending all day as Metro Health director, Guerra would see young patients in his pediatrics office across the street before making his hospital rounds late into the night.
He and his wife Mary Alice Cisneros also credit Dr. Guerra for helping save the life of their newborn son by referring them to the best doctors in the country with his national contacts.
John Paul Cisneros now has a career in finance in New York City.
Knowing her husband had helped to save lives, Guerra said, “His legacy is going to live on and on. We’re just so proud of what he did and what he accomplished.”
She said Dr. Guerra will be remembered as someone who “always thought about other people first and what he could do to help them.”