Former first lady Luisa ‘Piti’ Gándara dies after long battle with cancer
By The Star Staff
Luisa “Piti” Gándara Menéndez, a former legislator and former first lady of Puerto Rico, passed away Wednesday after a long battle against cancer.
News of her death prompted numerous condolences. Puerto Rico Supreme Court Chief Justice Maite D. Oronoz Rodríguez expressed her sorrow.
“With the same courage with which she faced cancer, she led vital struggles for the construction of a more equitable Puerto Rico and her career reflects her commitment and frames her legacy to this society, especially to children, who are indebted to her,” Oronoz said.
The former first lady died in a hospital accompanied by her husband, former Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, and their children Gabriela and Juan Carlos Acevedo Gándara.
In a statement, her family reported that Gándara Menéndez “requested that in lieu of flowers, any show of affection be made through donations to the non-profit organizations Lee Conmigo, Convento de las Siervas de María on Fortaleza Street and the American Cancer Society.
Several weeks ago, Acevedo Vilá reported that the former first lady had been hospitalized for a week because of the effects of the chemotherapy treatment as her cancer had spread.
On Tuesday, during the transmission of the “Aníbal Podcast,” the former governor said his wife’s health “has been deteriorating rapidly” and that she was in intense pain.
“Given this scenario, in conversation with her doctors and following her wishes, Gabriela, Juan Carlos and I have decided that treatment for her condition is no longer appropriate, that it is not prudent to bring her home and that all efforts be devoted in this last stage with us, to medicines and care necessary to ease her pain,” Acevedo Vilá continued on the podcast, noticeably affected.
“She has not been alone for a minute nor will she be,” the former governor continued. “For this reason, to all of you who want the best for her and for us, at this moment I ask you, in addition to continuing to give us the space to accompany her, raise your prayers, send your good vibes and wishes so that this last stretch is pain-free.”
Acevedo Vilá said his wife was emotionally and spiritually ready.
According to her biography published by the House of Representatives, Gándara Menéndez was the youngest of five siblings, the product of love between a certified public accountant (Fillo) and an entrepreneurial woman who was a florist and one of the first businesswomen (Lolita).
She went to Academia Sagrado Corazón in Santurce and studied at the Faculty of Education at the University of Puerto Rico and later obtained a master’s degree in Education from the University of Florida. She worked as a high school biology teacher and spent 17 years as an educational technology specialist for the multinational company IBM.
As first lady, she promoted early childhood education, developing programs such as Lee y Sueña, aimed at promoting reading among fathers, mothers and their children, and which managed to donate 60,000 books; Rincón de la Lectura, which created 50 reading centers through throughout the island; and Aprendamos Juntos, aimed at recruiting talent from the community as volunteer tutors in public school extended-hours programs.
In March 2013, “Piti” launched her candidacy for a vacancy that arose in the House of Representatives after Jorge Colberg Toro resigned from the seat to become secretary of public affairs of La Fortaleza. The former first lady served in the Legislature until 2016.