Ella Emma Ochoa—Beloved sister, wife, and mother, committed voice and fighter for the underserved and marginalized.
Ella Ochoa passed away May 5, 2023 after a hard-fought battle with cancer. Ella was preceded in death by brother, Maximiano Segovia, Jr.; sister, Diana Segovia; infant son, Jose Alberto Ochoa; son, Javier Andres Ochoa; and grandson, Anthony James Ochoa.
Ella was born on August 3rd, 1945, in Laredo Texas to Maximiano and Conrada Segovia—and she was a force of nature. Ella showed tremendous dedication to her siblings in the wake of losing her mother at the age of 11. And later, while starting a family of her own, losing her father at the age of 19. While education was a top priority for Ella, she eventually left her studies to take on the responsibility of caring for those around her. She began work as a migrant farmworker, traveling across Texas, North Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota. She met her husband, Aurelio, in the tomato fields of Iowa; they later married on September 23rd, 1963 and started a family while working various crops across the states. She was encouraged to earn her GED after which she began to educate and elevate other farmworkers. “Someone believed in me and opened doors,” Ella once said. “That’s what I want to do for others who are wanting an education and life outside the migrant lifestyle.”
Ella fell in love with her work serving the migrant and low-income worker community, and she continued to advocate for the underserved after settling in North Platte, Nebraska. In 1979, Ella co-founded the Nebraska Association of Farmworkers (NAF), an organization that advocated for the physical, financial, social, and educational well-being of seasonal farmworkers, minorities, and other disadvantaged persons. Throughout her career, she was a passionate advocate who worked with notable community leaders nationwide. She advised, chaired, and sat on many councils and advisory boards concerning community issues and the welfare of the marginalized, disadvantaged, and disabled. After retirement from NAF, she took a special interest in volunteering and working with Lincoln County CASA for Children.
Her Most Honorable Achievements Include:
1988 - Alma de Bronze Lutheran Ministries Award
1996 - Honorary Recognition from Harvard in Multicultural Studies and Expertise
1997 - The Ohtli Award, which is the highest honor the Mexican government gives to civilians who work in the United States and other countries and who have given assistance to Mexican citizens or promoted their culture.
1997 - Appointed to the delegation representing the United States at the inauguration of President Banzer of Bolivia.
2001 - Nebraska Woman of Distinction from the Nebraska Commission on the Status of Women
2005 - Cesar Estrada Chavez Award
2006 - MAFO Lifetime Achievement Award in honor of tireless work and dedication on behalf of the American farmworker.
2006 - Recognized by Nebraska Legislature Resolution LR 286 ("Legislature congratulates Ella Ochoa on her outstanding service to farmworkers not only in Nebraska but across the United States.")
2010 - Nebraska Latino American Commission Humanitarian Award
2012 - Honorary Graduate - National Hispana Leadership Institute’s Executive Leadership Program
2018 - Outstanding Nebraska Latino Leader
Notable regional honors: Admiralship in the Nebraska Navy and receiving the Key to the Cities of Omaha and North Platte.
While this is certainly not an exhaustive list of the praise and recognition she’s received over the years for her tireless work, she would have asked us to stop before the list started.
Ella is survived by husband, Aurelio V. Ochoa; children, Julian Aurelio(Lin Cain) Ochoa, Maximiano Jose (June) Ochoa, and Joel Alberto (Christina) Ochoa; grandchildren, Maximiano (MJ) (Ashley) Ochoa, Michael Ochoa, Corinne (Clay) Ochoa-Bond, and Gabriel Ochoa; one great-grandchild on the way; daughters-in-law, Amy Ochoa, Christine Ochoa; sisters, Gloria (Oscar) Salazar, Blanca (Manuel) Flores; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Memorials may go to the Farmworkers Justice Organization, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, or the American Cancer Society.
Mass of Christian Burial is set for 10:30 a.m. Thursday at St. John Vianney Catholic Church, Omaha, with interment to follow at Resurrection Cemetery, Omaha. Visitation is 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, with a wake service at 7 p.m., at the John A. Gentleman Pacific Street Chapel, Omaha.