AAPI month: highlighting Dr. Virgilio Gonzalez and his milestone of reaching 100 years of age

Published: May. 8, 2023 at 7:54 AM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - May is Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage month. We are highlighting a Filipino who has made an impact on the East Texas community for 60 years. And just last week, he has reached a major milestone of turning 100-years old.

Doctor Virgilio Gonzalez has quite a life story. At 19-years-old, he was an underground fighter during the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines in the 1940s. Shortly after World War II, Gonzalez attended the University of Santo Tomas medical school to study Pathology. He later graduated in 1951.

But Gonzalez had a dream. He wanted to come to America to advance himself in medicine. So he set out overseas by boat.

“It’s a sacrifice that I had to do so it took us 21 days to travel from Manila to San Francisco.” said Gonzalez.

He then made it to Dallas and started his residency at St. Paul’s hospital in 1952. Four years later, he worked as a pathologist at parkland hospital. He met and married his wife, Mary Long, and had six children.

But in 1963, he was asked to move to Tyler to improve and practice pathology. And when he came, “I was amazed. The people and citizens of Tyler are so friendly and I was immediately accepted to the medical community.”

Dr. Gonzalez has stayed ever since, making an impact on the east Texas community. In the 70s, he even recruited Filipinos to come to Tyler and work in the medical field, as there was a nursing shortage at the time.

He retired from his practice in 1994, but did not stop working. He continued to devote his time to health care by being a medical consultant for various groups.

He also became East Texas Medical Center’s Medical Director in 2000. And from 2002 to 2018, he was ETMC’s Director of Cardiac Pulmonary Rehabilitation.

To this day, Dr. Gonzalez continues to stay busy as a medical consultant for a Tyler insurance company.

And on May fourth of this year, Gonzalez celebrated his 100th birthday. Community members held a centennial celebration on May seventh. During the party, we spoke to his oldest son, Joseph Virgil Gonzalez about this milestone.

“Dad was just a hard-worker. He was a person who was hard to really keep up with and I’m so happy for him this is something he has looked forward to for many many years and all I can say is I hope I have his genes too.”

Dr. Gonzalez looks back at his career and wanted to share a few words.

“When you reach a certain age you always think about the value in life and now I was thinking about the values of generosity, the value of love and joy, and the value of and the power of friendship that I have acquired in the community.”

After reaching 100 years of age, Dr. Gonzalez says he plans to take a trip back home to the Philippines very soon.