Former Norfolk minister dies in Iowa

October 14, 2018 GMT

A Salvation Army minister who was instrumental in organizing aid for displaced workers when the Tyson Foods plant in Norfolk closed in 2006 has died.

Services are pending for Capt. Alex Velasquez, who died Wednesday, Oct. 10, at a hospice facility in Davenport, Iowa. Velasquez was diagnosed with metastatic stage 4 liver cancer in mid-September. He entered the hospice facility on Oct. 7.

Velasquez served the Norfolk Salvation Army from 2004 to 2008 with his wife, Major Jennifer Velasquez.

Velasquez did not shy away from sharing his own story as a testimony of faith. While growing up in a Chicago housing project, Velasquez had become a drug dealer, father and gang leader by age 14. After spending time in prison, he found himself homeless and learning a variety of survival techniques to keep himself from freezing to death.

In October 1999, he entered the Salvation Army’s adult rehabilitation program in Chicago. His heart for the homeless, poor and at-risk members and youths in the community would later come through in his ministry efforts.

While in Norfolk, Velasquez worked with the representatives of the Norfolk Rescue Mission and Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Norfolk to bring the Salvation Army’s mobile soup kitchen to the community’s low-income residents for meals on a weekly basis.

After the Tyson Foods plant in Norfolk abruptly closed in 2006, Velasquez worked with members of several agencies in the area, including Nebraska Health and Human Services, the former Goldenrod Hills Community Action and the St. Vincent DePaul Society, to make sure the nearly 1,200 displaced workers received the assistance they needed to maintain adequate food and shelter. He also organized special presentations for the workers on free skills training with representatives from Northeast Community College at the soup kitchen.

Velasquezes — who have a daughter, Jacqueline — were transferred from Norfolk in 2008 and were called to the Davenport, Iowa, area in 2011. Last summer, he traveled to his mother’s native land of Puerto Rico to help with relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

In a memo shared by the Salvation Army, Major Jennifer Velasquez said she was able to be with her husband when he died and thanked those who had prayed for their family.