A former eastside grocer and state athletic director who went on to own one of the region’s most successful beer and beverage distributors will be laid to rest Thursday.
Joseph M. Sanchez III passed away unexpectedly March 2 from an apparent heart attack. He was 63.
“There are no words to convey the deep grief we feel from this terrible loss,” the Sanchez’ family said in a statement following his death.
Sanchez was the owner and CEO of City of Industry-based Classic Distributing & Beverage Group, Inc., distributors of MillerCoors brands and a broad selection of fine imported brands, craft beers, and non-alcohol beverages in the Metro Los Angeles and Eastern Los Angeles County.
He was born in Los Angeles, California on Oct. 7, 1953, and was the eldest son of Eastern Group Publications/EGPNews Publisher Dolores Sanchez, and longtime businessman Joe M. Sanchez, Jr. who died in 2011. He and his wife Carla have been together for nearly four decades. He is the father of six sons and two daughters, all adults.
Growing up, Sanchez worked after school and on weekends at the family’s discount grocery stores – La Quebradita in East L.A., Pico Rivera, Lincoln Heights, downtown and South L.A. — and wholesale import and export business, gaining the work ethic and business acumen that would later help him grow the financially struggling Miller Brands beer franchise he took ownership of in 1986 to one of the largest beer and beverage distributorships in the region, with more than 300 employees.
“Classic Distributing’s growth can be directly attributed to his hard work and foresight in acquiring neighboring distributors,” the company said in a statement.
“His death is a shock to those of us who loved and respected him, from his family to his employees, customers and the many other people he worked with in the beverage industry,” the family said.
Sanchez has been a member of the EGP Board of Directors, (publishers of this newspaper), for the last 25 years.
Sanchez attended St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower and was scheduled to be honored in May at a gala “Celebrating the Bosco Man” for his work as a board member and for his generous support of the school’s mission to educate young men and excel in sports.
“Our honoree is Joe Sanchez, Class of ’70. Joe is an upstanding husband, father, businessman and philanthropist. As a fellow Board member, I have had the opportunity to get to know Joe and could not think of a better honoree,” wrote Stephen W. Fillet in the February edition of the Alumni Association e-newsletter.
His philanthropy included, among other causes, the first large donation to LA Plaza de Culturas y Artes in downtown Los Angeles. The institution is dedicated to preserving and telling the history of Mexicans and Mexican American in Los Angeles. His contribution helped finance the creation of the center’s video and audio library.
Word of Sanchez’ untimely passing spread quickly, leading to an outpouring of emotion on social media. Family members and friends shared photos and memories, and even videos of Sanchez engaging in one of his many talents, singing.
Their words and photos tell the story of a fun-loving man who enjoyed making jokes and making people laugh.
Sanchez’ children and their spouses extolled his virtues as a generous and loving father and grandfather “who could light up a room with his smile.”
“My dad was the best blend of strength, generosity, and kindness. What I remember him most for was his humor … This jovial spirit is one I hope to never forget and carry on in my own life,” said daughter Alix Jolie Lum, going on to say she will find him in every laugh.
For daughter Danielle, her father’s death means she’s lost the “most important man” in her life.
“He was, without a doubt, the most influential person in my world and he helped shape who I am today.” She and others described Sanchez as a “force of nature.”
Daughter-in-law Irene Sanchez described how “heartbroken” her husband Mark is over the “loss of his hero.”
“We are all trying to process this,” said Joseph Sanchez IV, the oldest of the 8 siblings. “I miss him more each day.” Joseph’s wife Sylvia described how they would miss watching her father-in-law “make breakfast on Christmas morning.”
Billy Sanchez, who along with brothers Mark, Michael and Carlos Joseph, CJ, worked with their father at Classic, said his father was very private, lamenting they did not know how ill he was.
Sanchez’ loss is also being mourned in the “Dog World” where he and his wife of more than three decades, Carla, shared a passion and made their mark on both the show circuit and in the world of breeding.
“The dog world was stunned by the sudden passing of longtime Mastiff breeder/exhibitor and purebred dog fancier Joe Sanchez last night. Nearly everyone in the sport knows the Sanchez family … Joe and his wife, Carla … produced numerous #1 Mastiffs, Best in Show, and National Specialty winners including many of the top winning Mastiffs in the history of the breed,” states an article posted on The Canine Chronicle website.
“He was the love of my life,” said his wife, as she recalled some of her favorite times with her husband.
Other accomplishments include co-founding the Mexican American Grocers Association, (MAGA), a business organization dedicated to securing equity in services for Latino owned grocery stores and bringing the importance of the Latino and Spanish-speaking market to the attention of corporate America.
As MAGA president, Sanchez established the MAGA Foundation which over the years raised hundred of thousand of dollars in scholarships for Latino college students pursuing degrees in business related fields.
Sanchez appointed his son Carlos Joseph, CJ, president of the company in January.
He is survived by his wife Carla Sanchez; mother Dolores Sanchez; sons Joe Sanchez IV and wife Sylvia, Mark and wife Irene, Andrew and wife Judy, William and wife Rosa, Michael and wife Melissa, and Carlos Joseph (CJ) and wife Heather; daughters Alix Jolie Lum and husband JD, Danielle Carleen and Tim Hall; 19 grandchildren and two great grandchildren; brother Michael Sanchez and sisters Gloria Alvarez, Sarah Ramos, Erica Hinthorne and Bianca Preciado.
EGP Managing Editor Gloria Alvarez is the sister of Joseph Sanchez III.
Updated March 10. 4:50 p.m. to correct byline.