DUARTE – A group of 13 current and former Filipino American officials Tuesday remembered Duarte Mayor Pro Tem Tzeitel Paras-Caracci as a “great trailblazer,” one day after her death at age 49 was announced.
“As a joint body of Filipino American local elected officials from Southern California, we are saddened to hear of the passing of a great trailblazer and community leader, Mayor Pro Tem and former Mayor Tzeitel Paras- Caracci,” the group said in a statement released by Artesia Mayor Melissa Ramoso.
“As the longest sitting United States Filipino American municipal elected official in office, Mayor Pro Tem Paras-Caracci served her community honorably for 21 years.”
Paras-Caracci died following a nearly three-year battle with lung cancer, Duarte Mayor Margaret Finlay announced Monday. She died at her home surrounded by family on Saturday, Finlay added.
Tuesday’s statement from the Filipino American group went on to say of Paras-Caracci, “She served as an inspiration to her city and the Filipino American community. Her enthusiastic desire to serve others was inspirational to all of us. We will miss her as our fellow kababayan, but her legacy will live on. Our deepest condolences to the Parras-Caracci family and the City of Duarte.”
Besides Ramoso, the statement was signed by Ariel Pe, vice mayor or Lakewood; Sonny Santa Ines, mayor pro tem of Bellflower; Rachelle Arizmendi, councilwoman from Sierra Madre; Frank Aurelio Yokoyama, councilman from Cerritos; Lynda Johnson, councilwoman from Cerritos; Letty Lopez-Viado, councilwoman from West Covina; Arleen Bocatija Rojas, councilwoman from Carson; Evelyn Zneimer, councilwoman from South Pasadena; Mark Pulido, retired mayor of Cerritos; Victor Manalo, retired mayor of Artesia; Thomas Small, retired mayor of Culver City; and Marissa Castro-Salvati, former civil service and taxicab commissioner for the city of Los Angeles.
Paras-Caracci was first elected to the council in 2001. She was the first Filipino-American to be elected to the Duarte City Council and the first Duarte High School graduate.
She served as mayor in 2006, 2011, 2015 and 2019.
Paras-Caracci was also a member of the National League of Cities Board of Directors, the League of California Cities Board of Directors and president of the Asian Pacific American Municipal Officials. In addition, she was a director for the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, a governing board member of Foothill Transit and a board member of the Duarte Community Coordinating Council.
“We have suffered a huge loss in our city and I am profoundly saddened as Tzeitel was an immensely capable member of our council, as well as a great personal friend to me, as well as many others,” Finlay said. “Her smile and energy were infectious, and it was an honor to serve on council with her.”
Born Aug. 8, 1972, in Quezon City, Philippines, and named for the eldest daughter from the Broadway musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” Paras- Caracci and her family moved to Los Angeles in 1975 and to Duarte in 1985. She graduated from Duarte High School in 1989 and later from Woodbury University in Burbank.
Paras-Caracci is survived by her parents, Lino and Russel Paras; her husband, K.C. Caracci; stepdaughter Dr. Blake Caracci, son Jack Russell; and her brothers Bertrand and John Paul George.
In lieu of flowers, the family asked those who wish to honor Paras- Caracci to donate to the City of Hope at cityofhope.org/giving/give-honor-or- memory.