Milpitas resident Lou Horyza charted a colorful path of community service for the city he so loved. He took his first footsteps onto Milpitas in 1975. From there, Horyza birthed a highly decorated life of community service.

In the 1970s, the young city of Milpitas held families of military retirees as well as auto workers from the Ford and Chevy plants, which at the time were the city’s main flourishing corporations. Few may know that Milpitas commenced at Dixon Landing, an area at the time enveloped with residents who worked at the auto plants, and stretched across to the Capitol area of what is now San Jose.

A veteran himself of the Korean War and a retired Captain of the National Guard, Horyza lived among fellow veterans in the early days of Milpitas, and through the years became most notable for his distinguished work as a community organizer…

Memorial Day was the single most important holiday to Horyza. Following was Veterans Day. Horyza’s commitment was demonstrated by his ongoing coordination of veterans’ presence at the city’s Memorial and Veterans Day Services, particularly of Korean War veterans. 

Through Horyza’s encouraged participation, fellow Korean War veterans found their post-military companionship furthered. Together they also took part in the Veterans Day parade for the city of San Jose.

Horyza helped to start the veterans organization of Milpitas, as well as the one for Santa Clara in the 1990s, eventually becoming president of the Veterans of Santa Clara County.

His dedication to Memorial Day and veterans was exemplified through the building of the “Remembrance Memorial for California Korean War Veterans,” which Horyza greatly assisted securing funding for. Families of veterans can visit the memorial in Santa Nella, California.

Horyza didn’t stop there. He solicited the help of Milpitas honoree Mabel Mattos, who for many years conserved historical information for the city. In the 1930s, when Mattos was a child, Milpitas became her homestead; at the time, the city was only farmland. In the present day, she is recognized as a major contributor to the city’s historical preservation.

At the request of Horyza, Mattos provided all the names of Milpitas veterans who died during wartime. He sought the city council’s support for those in memoriam (and their families) to be honored by way of street signs across the city. Today this memorialization lives on in blue street signs across Milpitas, bearing the names of our city’s fallen soldiers.

With his commitment to veterans so evident, in 2003 Horyza was awarded Veteran of the Year, the second veteran to be awarded such.

Horyza’s dedicated work for veterans also introduced him to the Knights of Columbus, a service organization known worldwide in the Catholic church. They too contributed to many civic veteran causes. Lou climbed the ranks of Council 5796, which happens to be Milpitas’ first K.O.C. council.

Major events that Horyza organized as a Knight included Thanksgiving dinners to feed the homeless and those without family or friends to dine with, Citizen-Police Officer-Firefighter of the Year awards, and church festivals. This work strengthened his devotion to the parish of St. John the Baptist, where Horyza remained engaged in support of all his parish church’s events. His volunteer service garnered him The St. John the Baptist Pavalkis Award, an award that his wife, Peggy Horyza, was also the first recipient of.

Horyza’s service as a Knight also brought him deeper into our school communities. United States flags for Milpitas schools were provided by the Knights. And when a school needed a “tattered” (worn-out) flag replaced, The Knights, along with the Girl Scouts, would hold a flag ceremony for both the presentation and proper retirement of a U.S. flag.

Throughout the 1980s, Mr. and Mrs. Horyza would become highly involved in school and church activities while operating what was at the time a new home engraving business. Horyza gave the business the endearing name “Peggy’s Personalized Engraving.” The business’s engraving of community accolades would ensue for the next 35 years. It was through the resulting associations that Horyza was introduced to the Chamber of Commerce. By the late 1990s, he joined the organization, eventually becoming a Chamber of Commerce Ambassador.

2003 was a banner year for Mr. Horyza. By that time, he’d served his way up to the level of 4th Degree Grand Knight, and was bestowed the prestigious awards of Chamber of Commerce Ambassador of the Year, Veteran of the Year, and Citizen of the year.

Consistent with his desire to honor the service and work of veterans, Horyza petitioned the Milpitas city council to display plaques of Citizen-Police Officer-Firefighter of the Year awards. Today residents can visit City Hall and see the current year’s recipients.

A true city humanitarian, Lou Horyza’s outreach stretched deep within the city, extending to his impassioned support of the invaluable Milpitas Food Pantry. The pantry is currently headed by Executive Director Karyn Kolander, with whom Horyza worked to advocate for the homeless families, families with children, and seniors supported by the organization. The Food Pantry also aids veterans coming back from service who don’t have families or circles of support to help them get back on their feet.

One thing that carried Horyza on his marvelous road of community service was his unique 1964 and a half maroon Mustang, which was made on a Falcon body with Falcon parts. This classic is original Ford plant verified. Whether it was being driven for family vacations, Christmas tree transporting, or Veterans Day parades, his vintage ride was a loyal friend to the end.

A lover of travel, Horyza (and his Mustang) braved every main highway state route on the U.S. map, allowing him to visit all 50 United States. Additionally, he ventured out globally to 29 countries.

On May 25, 2019, the day of Horyza’s memorial service, an engraved chalice with Horyza’s name was presented to San Jose Diocese seminarian Ryan Mau, in keeping with the Knights’ tradition of honoring Lou’s service as a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus.

As this year’s City of Milpitas Memorial Day Ceremony unfolded on May 27, 2019, one distinguished individual was noticeably absent: An empty chair honoring the late Lou Horyza sat among the audience, holding regalia of the 4th Degree Knights of Columbus. 

That chair, along with Mr. Horyza’s shoes, will never be filled. 

Nerizza Besabe Manongdo
Nerizza is a parent and a PTA leader at John Sinnott Elementary. She previously held the position of President and continues her participation this year as Communications Chair. Outside of serving her school community, Nerizza is an eBook author and food writer.

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