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Mike Vasquez, founder of Miguel’s Jr., dies at 82 – Press-Enterprise

Mike R. Vasquez, co-founder of the Miguel’s Jr. restaurant chain, is being remembered as a hard worker and philanthropist.

Vasquez, 82, died peacefully at his home in Corona on Tuesday, Oct. 27, according to his family.

“I think the thing that people always admired him for was that he was such a hard worker,” said son Javier Vasquez, who is president and chief executive officer of the family business. “He dropped out of school in seventh grade, but he was successful. He always told us, ‘Just work hard and that will solve all your problems.’”

Mike Vasquez’s goal wasn’t so much to grow a restaurant chain as to see his children do well, his son said. He was proud that they all went to college and that now his grandchildren are pursuing higher education as well.

Mike Vasquez and his wife Mary were dedicated to Corona and quietly gave back to the community, especially if the cause was for children, said Bobby and Karen Spiegel in separate interviews. Bobby Spiegel is president of the Corona Chamber of Commerce, and Karen Spiegel is a Riverside County supervisor.

“This is going to be a big loss to the community,” she said.

Mike Vasquez, known to friends as Mickey and Don Miguel, was born in Phoenix on Sept. 8, 1938, but was raised in San Bernardino. He met his wife Mary Sanchez on a trip to central Mexico. They were married in 1964 and moved to Corona in 1973 when they bought an existing restaurant that they turned into the first Miguel’s, a full-service restaurant serving Mary’s family recipes.

It was named after Mike Vasquez’s grandfather, according to the family.

Two years later the couple opened their first fast food restaurant. Miguel’s Jr. became popular with high school students who loved its burritos and house-made hot sauce.

The chain now has more than 20 restaurants in Riverside, Orange, and San Bernardino counties.

Mike and Mary Vasquez were selected as Citizens of the Year in 2009 by the Corona Chamber of Commerce.

“He was very humble, just a great, great individual” said Bobby Spiegel. “He never really asked for or wanted any acknowledgement for the many things that he did throughout the community.

“The Vasquez family are amazing individuals, but collectively as a family are very, very unique.”

Mike Vasquez also cared about his employees. According to Bobby Spiegel, when the opening of one of his restaurants was delayed for a month, he paid the staff’s salaries until it opened.

“He always felt if you were fair to your employees, we could grow together,” Javier Vasquez said.

Mike Vasquez is survived by his wife, Mary; four sisters, Elizabeth, Virginia, Yolanda and Carolyn; six children, Eva, Danny,Michael, Carol, Sylvia, and Javier; and 14 grandchildren.

A celebration of life will be announced.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation to the Friends of the Corona Public Library at friendsofthecoronapubliclibrary.com

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