Home > Organizing > President's Message

‘Nonie’ Graddy gave the farm workers some of the most important years of her life

 It was with sadness that the United Farm Workers learned of the recent passing of Leonie Fuller Graddy, or Nonie to her family and friends. This is a time to express gratitude that Nonie choose to dedicate some of the most important years of her life to the farm worker movement during some of its most difficult times.

Nonie intimately participated in some of the movement’s most momentous events between 1970 and 1975, from the historic Salinas Valley lettuce and vegetable strike of 1970 to farm worker organizing and strikes in the San Luis, Arizona area to serving at the union’s national headquarters at La Paz in the period leading to enactment of California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act. Among those with whom she worked and won respect were Fred Ross Sr., Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. After leaving the UFW, she continued her social activism in Salinas with some of the same farm workers she met during the strikes through her labors for local farm worker cooperatives.

In a letter to Justine Lomax, one of Nonie’s children, UFW President Arturo Rodriguez noted that like everyone who worked with the union in those days, from Cesar Chavez on down, Nonie earned $5 per week plus room and board. “And like countless others whose lives were touched and changed by working with the UFW,” Arturo wrote, “Nonie discovered that by selflessly giving so much to others she got so much back in return. Lifelong friendships were forged. She came to love being included in the warmth and laughter of large traditional Mexican families—from the families that welcomed her into their homes in Salinas and San Luis to the Chavez and Huerta families and others she came to know at La Paz. Later in life Nonie said she was blessed to belong to a big, raucous family of her own.

“As the years pass,” Arturo continued, “we often don’t get to tell people until it is too late how much they have meant to us, and to thank them for everything they have done. Saying thank you doesn’t seem enough, but it is what we can do. We also honor Nonie by working hard each day to help the farm workers of today who are fighting to win their rights.”

The UFW asks everyone to keep Nonie Graddy in their “thoughts and prayers.”

Nonie Graddy, Presente!