Long-time seasonal lakeside resident Todd Darrah Stong died peacefully with his family by his side on Friday, March 31 in Radford, Virginia at age 83. He was well known and admired locally for his active role in community projects related to Lake Chapala water issues.
Todd was born on December 14, 1939 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the first of eight children. At age four, his family moved to a home outside of Downingtown, Pennsylvania with no electricity or telephone. After working to fix up the property, his father was called to serve in World War II, leaving his wife to manage the family homestead.
Attaining status as valedictorian of his high school graduating class was the beginning of the numerous honors and awards Todd acquired over his lifetime. He attended college at West Point Military Academy, finishing in the top ten percent of his class. He continued studies at Purdue University, and earned his Doctorate of Engineering from the University of New Mexico.
Todd served in the U.S. military for 27 years before retiring as a Colonel in the Army Corps of Engineers. He graduated from Airborne and Army Ranger training, and received 12 military awards, including three Bronze stars and two Legion of Merit awards.
Todd then worked four more years at a private company before launching into independent enterprise to dedicate his knowledge and experience to 30 years of humanitarian aid around the globe. He served in many different positions as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including as a bishop, in a faith that motivated his philanthropic missions to help others.
He carried out community projects in Africa, Asia and most recently Mexico that included bridge building, water and sewage treatment, fish production, agriculture, studies on childhood kidney disease and various other research initiatives. He was always looking for projects that could provide job opportunities for local people
During his years of part-time residence in Mexico, Todd was recognized for his efforts to research and alleviate Lake Chapala’s environmental problems and act as a volunteer advisor to municipal, state and federal government officials.
In 2010, he spearheaded a ground-breaking study of endemic fish in collaboration with scientists in Jalisco and the United States, providing laboratory evidence to dispel widespread concerns that lake species were unsafe for human consumption due to mercury contamination.
In subsequent years he designed and ran various pilot projects such as a low-tech, low-cost sewage treatment system apt for servicing small rural communities, and an aquaculture program in Mezcala for producing fish in floating cages. He also became a strong advocate for the construction of a second aqueduct to extract water from the lake to feed the Guadalajara metro area, arguing that the aging system in use is now prone to a sudden and catastrophic failure.
Todd was renowned among resident expatriates for sharing his expertise at annual state-of-the-lake presentations that invariably drew large audiences to Open Circle meeting at the Lake Chapala Society.
His stay at lakeside was cut short this winter after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor that required his return to the United States for treatment and care for the terminal ailment.
Todd was predeceased by his father, Harold Philip Stong, mother Julia Battis McCullen, and brothers Blaine, Philip and Harold. He is survived by his widow Ann Vivian Jacobsen Stong, daughter Melanie Davis and sons Gayvin, Nathan, Ian, Tim, and Todd Stong, and their respective spouses, along with 24 grandchildren, 48 great-grandchildren, and sisters Carol Huey, Sherry Davis, Holly Bradford, and Meg Mehl.
Funeral services were held on April 6 at the Church of Latter-day Saints in Radford, Virginia.
José Guadalupe Padilla Castañeda
Former Chapala Mayor José Guadalupe Padilla Castañeda died Monday, April 10, at the age of 67, after suffering declining health over several years and recent complications of diabetes.
Padilla served as Chapala’s chief executive from 1995 to 1997, after recovering control of City Hall for the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) following the municipality’s first administration of alternate rule under Partido Acción Nacional (PAN).
He was a public accountant and auditor by profession and distinguished in local political circles as a PRI leader prior to his 1994 election as mayor. He returned to public service during the 2015-2018 administration headed by PRI Mayor Javier Degollado González, holding the post as director of Municipal Patrimony.
Known among close friends by the nickname Pablo, Padilla also played an active role in Chapala’s cultural activities. He was among the founders of the Rondalla de Chapala string and vocal chorus in 1976, and later took on the group’s directorship from 1980 to 1995. He also stood out for his skill and virtuosity on drums during the years he marked the beat as a member of the Lake Power Band.
Padilla was honored at a posthumous ceremony held Tuesday, April 11 at the Centro Cultural Antigua Presidencia, the former town hall building where he served as mayor. His coffin was laid out in the auditorium, draped with a banner adorned with the Chapala coat-of-arms designed during the Padilla administration by artists Dionisio Morales and Oscar Sánchez. Padilla is remembered for other accomplishments during his term in office, including laying the cornerstone at the permanent campus of the Preparatoria Regional de Chapala, construction of the Clinica Municipal health care facility and the DIF Chapala rehabilitation unit, initial development of the Parque de la Amistad at the Ajijic waterfront and the 1995 founding of Chapala’s Banda de Armas drum and bugle corps.
Mayor Alejandro Aguirre presided at the ceremony, with former mayors José Antonio Rivera Alcántar, Alberto Alcántar Beltrán, Arturo Gutiérrez Tejeda, Gerardo Degollado González, Jesús Cabrera Jiménez and Joaquín Huerta Barrios standing beside the coffin as the first group of honor guards.
Afterwards, family, colleagues and friends accompanied the coffin to the San Francisco Parish for the funeral mass officiated by the late mayor’s relatives, Fathers Juan Castañeda Contreras and Juan Javier Padilla Cervantes. Following the service the funeral cortege proceeded to the municipal cemetery for burial.
Padilla is survived by his wife Graciela Rivera Alcántar and their adult children Paola Graciela and Pablo José.
Manuel Guzmán Arroyo
Manuel Guzmán Arroyo, a distinguished University of Guadalajara (UdeG) scientist known for his research on Lake Chapala, died on Friday, April 7, at the age of 78.
Guzmán was a specialist in limnology, the field of study on inland waters including lakes, ponds, rivers, springs, streams and wetlands.
After completing a university degree in biology, he earned a Doctorate of Science at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City.
Guzmán Arroyo served on the faculty of the University of Guadalajara’s Center of Biological and Agricultural Sciences (CUCBA). In 1988 he was named founding director of the UdeG Instituto de Limnología, headquartered in Ajijic’s La Floresta subdivision. Over the three decades he held the post he compiled extensive data on Lake Chapala’s physical characteristics, its fish population, the fishing industry and the full gamut of its environmental problems.
Through his leadership in research, workshops and conferences, he gained a reputation as a principal proponent of lake conservation, acting as a key consultant for local government authorities, environmental activists and media outlets.
In 2003, Guzmán authored “Chapala: Una crisis programada,” a comprehensive source of information that traces the deterioration of Mexico’s largest lake through history and outlines specific actions for safeguarding its integrity.
Guzman Arroyo’s widow Rebeca Cota, descendants and friends gathered at Chapala’s San Francisco Parish on Thursday, April 20 for a memorial Mass celebrated prior to laying his ashes to rest in the a vault of the church columbarium.