After several years of battling cancer, Dr. Celestino Avila of Donna passed away on Monday.
Avila was born in Donna, and was a prominent athlete while in high school. He was named the All-Valley most valuable player in 1959, in addition to receiving all-district honors.
Avila graduated from Donna High School and received a scholarship to Southwest Texas State in San Marcos, now known as Texas State University.
At San Marcos, Avila was a 3-year letterman and was named all-conference each of those years. In addition, he was a second-team All-America pick in 1963-64.
Avila went on to be named to the RGV All-Millennium team back in 1999, and was elected to the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame in 2000 and the National Hispanic Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.
While he was blessed in athletic talent, Avila did have some early struggles he endured.
"I think what stands out the most about my dad is the fact that he, from the age of six, lost his father and was shortly thereafter was left by his mother and they grew up by themselves and they became survivors,” said Avila’s daughter Erica Avila.
Avila used his talent in sports to get an education and become a doctor, and later returned back home to Donna.
"He wanted to come back and give back to the community,” said Avila’s eldest son Celestino Avila Jr. “He struggled, and that was one thing that we were very proud of that, he was able to achieve all of these goals."
Avila was diagnosed with cancer and had several organs removed, but the cancer persisted. Doctors told Avila's family that he had two years at most, but Avila surpassed their predictions and lived for three years before passing away on Monday. Avila's name will still be remembered in Donna, with the family promising to always remain servants of the public.
A public rosary will be held for Avila at Saint Joseph's Church in Donna on Wednesday at 7 pm. The funeral will take place on Thursday at 10 a.m.