Sonia Iris Collazo .

Sonia Iris Collazo was born on February 23, 1948, in Orocovis, Puerto Rico to Alfredo Gonzalez and Adela Melendez de Gonzalez. After decades of serving her family and her community, she passed away in Philadelphia, PA on March 26, 2024. 

An early trailblazer for women and Latinos in Philadelphia 

After receiving her formal education in Orocovis, Sonia attended the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico – Barranquitas before moving to Philadelphia. Upon arriving there, she continued her education at Temple University and worked as a kindergarten teacher at Potter-Thomas School. 

Sonia was one of the first employees at Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM), a nonprofit founded in 1971 to “help families, regardless of their background reach their full potential.”  A proud member of AFSCME District Council 47, Sonia went on to have a long and respected career in the City of Philadelphia’s Commission on Human Relations, retiring after more than 26 years of service. 

Her faith, caring heart and a deep belief in the goodness of people led Sonia to serve her community in and out of work. She was one of the lead organizers of the ‘Walk for Peace,’ an initiative that began in 1996 to address violence among young people. In retirement, Sonia volunteered much of her time at Congreso de Latinos Unidos retirees’ program. 

“I love what I’m doing, and as long as I have my health and energy, I’ll keep working,» she told AARP magazine in 2013. 

In 2013, Sonia was selected by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College (El Centro) in New York City as one of 100 Puerto Ricans to archive their stories and contributions. She was also honored in 2014 for her contributions by the Philadelphia City Council during their National Grandparents Week celebration. 

A legacy of faith, love, and community service 

As news of her passing spread, many took to social media to express not only their condolences, but also their memories of this beloved community leader.  

“Sonia was, is, and always will be a force of hope and possibility  in our community!,» said Christina Vega, President of local domestic violence support organization, Love Shouldn’t Hurt. “I will always remember her for the care and love that she showed me as a child, and for the amazing examples that she left as a woman and a mother.” 

Sonia was preceded in death by her parents, brother, Alfredo, and sisters, Maria de Jesus & Maria de los Angeles.  

Left to cherish her memory are her loving sons, Rafael P. Collazo (Michelle Roman-Collazo); Michael O. Collazo (Joy Collazo) and Mario A. Collazo (Melissa Collazo); grandchildren Marcus Alexander, Mario Andres, Elijah Marcellus, Elaina Iris, Nathaniel Troy, Maxwell Rafael, William Xavier Isaiah and Joaquin Robinson Clemente; sisters Aura, Zaida, Elna, Alma and Leida; brothers Javier, Dennis, Omar and Lester; additional siblings include Jaime, Vicky, Gizehemma & Sandra; a host of nieces and nephews; and other family and friends. 

Memorial contributions in her honor can be made to Philadelphia-based non-profits Love Shouldn’t Hurt and Taller Puertoriqueño.   


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