Manuel "Manny" Sustaita
April 13, 1944 - May 30, 2020
Manuel "Manny" Sustaita, a community builder, veterans advocate and decorated U.S. Marine who served in Vietnam and would go on to build Waco's Vietnam Veterans Memorial, passed away peacefully of natural causes on May 30, 2020. He was 76. Mr. Sustaita was born in Waco, Texas, on April 13, 1944, the youngest son born to a hardworking family of migrant farmworkers, Francisco and Guadalupe (Hernandez) Sustaita. As a boy, he loved spending time with his South Waco friends, playing and selling newspapers, peanuts and popcorn at baseball and Baylor football games. He attended Waco public schools, and was a lifelong member of the Latin American United Methodist Church in Waco that was founded by his grandparents in 1946.
Mr. Sustaita joined the Texas National Guard in 1961, and a year later enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. During his four years of service in the Marines, he was deployed to Guantanamo Bay during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Island of Cypress during the Turkish-Greece conflict, and to Vietnam as part of the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division (Forward), Fleet Marine Force that landed in DaNang, in March 1965, becoming the first Marine combat presence in South Vietnam.
Upon returning to civilian life in Waco, Mr. Sustaita began what would become a more than three decade career in the insurance industry, first for MetLife financial services, where he worked for more than 20 years, and later for his own insurance and real estate company, Manuel Sustaita Associates.
He was a founding member of the Organization of Hispanic Veterans, co-founder of the bilingual newspaper El Tiempo, co-founder of the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and he played an instrumental role in saving the Waco Veterans Affairs Medical Center from closing. Mr. Sustaita served on several boards, and was bestowed with numerous awards for his tireless efforts in supporting veteran, Latino and community causes.
Even though he served the Waco community in many functions, nothing gave him more pride than uniting the community to build the Waco Citizens for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which after 10 years of fundraising as its president and founder he helped inaugurate in 2004.
Mr. Sustaita's personal memoirs will be highlighted in Oral Memoirs of Manuel "Manny" Sustaita as part of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History Project that preserves the stories of individuals who have helped to shape Waco history.
He was preceded in death by his parents; brother, Francisco Sustaita; sisters, Lupe, Alvina, Mary and Sarah; and his former wife, Patricia Rivera Sustaita, the mother of his daughters.
Left to cherish his memory and legacy are his daughters, Angela Sustaita-Ruiz of Miami, FL, and husband, Manny Ruiz; Melissa Sustaita Acosta of Austin, TX, and husband, Eduardo Acosta; longtime companion, Josie Valdez of Temple, TX; sisters, Rebecca Chavarria of Waco, TX, and Linda Sustaita-Torres of Arecibo, Puerto Rico; his beloved grandchildren; and many loving nieces, nephews and dear friends.
The family will hold a private memorial service on Saturday, June 20, and invites family and friends to leave condolences at ManuelSustaita.com. A celebration of life will be planned for a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to the Manuel Sustaita Memorial Fund through the Waco Foundation to benefit non-profit organizations serving the Waco community. Donations can be made online at wacofoundation.org or by check mailed to 1227 N. Valley Mills, Dr., Suite 235, Waco, Texas 76710.
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