Longtime employee Mario Mena, who worked in University Housing for 21 years, passed away Saturday, January 19. He was 44.
Born May 17, 1974, Mena was raised in East Carbon, Utah and later moved to California. He was hired by University Housing in 1997 and worked there for the duration of his career at Chico State, in roles including lead custodian and most recently as a laborer. He was active in the Chico State chapter of the CSU Employees Union (CSUEU), starting his activism as a Unit 5 member and rising through the ranks to eventually serve as Chapter 302 president.
“He always had a strong union voice and was a great champion of Unit 5 issues. Mario loved to encourage activism—he felt that everyone should use their voice and motivated people to be involved,” said Jessica Westbay, who served with Mena as union stewards for many years and is the current chapter president. “His humor and laughter were contagious. He will be missed by many whose lives were touched by his mentorship, friendship, and support of the union.”
Outgoing and witty, Mena truly loved helping and interacting with other people, said his stepson, Daniel Pacheco, who also works in University Housing. In Mena’s roles on campus, he eagerly shared his knowledge with coworkers and students, not just for the job at hand but anything they may need.
“His motto was that we are a University, and no matter how high you are on the pole, our role is education and we need to educate everybody,” Pacheco said. “Students come to school to learn, and we as employees are here to interact, show them to be respectful toward people, and to be yourself but also be an adult.”
More than anything, Mena enjoyed engaging with students and teaching them life skills, whether basic maintenance within University Housing or how to fix the brakes on their cars or a broken sink in their apartment.
“He’s the one who trained me for everything we did at work, and he was the trainer for everybody,” Pacheco said. “He took a lot of pride in his work, and it wasn’t done right unless it was done the way it was supposed to be done.”
Outside of campus, Mena put his talent and passion for handiwork to use through woodworking, carpentry, etched glass, and mechanic projects. He was also a dedicated outdoorsman who enjoyed hunting and fishing.
He is survived by his wife, Crucita Mena, stepson Pacheco, parents Raul and Rosie Mena, sister Monica Naland, brother Brian Mena, sister-in-law Audrey Vigil, niece Deidre Vigil, and nephew Spencer Bullard.