Ernest "Ernie" Reyes, co-founder of the 21,000-member national trade group the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, died Saturday after a brief illness at age 72.
The San Diego-based real estate broker co-founded NAHREP in 1999 with Gary Acosta, with the goal of increasing Hispanic homeownership by supporting Latino real estate professionals who serve the Hispanic community. NAHREP now has 40 chapters across the nation.
In a statement, NAHREP called Reyes a "passionate voice for Latino rights" -- a 40-year industry veteran whose activism dated back to the days of Cesar Chavez's "Si se puede" farm workers campaign.
Reyes put the political experience he gained working as a staff member for former Congressman Leon Panetta to work for NAHREP.
"He was the perfect individual to lead the organization because he could communicate so effectively," Acosta said.
In addition to advocating for Spanish-language documents and services for Hispanic homebuyers, Acosta said Reyes was "the emotional core of NAHREP."
Reyes ran the San Diego-based brokerage Network Realty, which he founded in 1989. He recently served as chairman and executive director of the NAHREP Foundation, an affiliate of NAHREP that helps consumers with financial literacy and community development, and served as NAHREP's chief spokesperson.
In volunteer positions, Reyes served as chairman of the San Diego Home Loan Counseling Center and the 9th Region Regulatory Fairness Board of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
In an homage to Reyes on NAHREP's home page today, he was lauded for his vision in "creating an organization that would bring people together to advocate for Latino families who aspire for a better life," which "changed the course of history and continues to directly impact thousands of individuals and families every year."
Reyes is survived by his wife of 51 years, Patricia, son Darren, daughter Denise and grandchildren Monique, Mikayla, Jake, Nixon and Griffon. Plans for a memorial service are pending.