Gonzalez often counseled families through the heart-wrenching decision of whether to keep a patient on life support.
Among those patients was Pedro Zamora, one of the first openly gay men with AIDS who appeared in popular media, as part of the cast of The Real World: San Francisco in 1994.
Pedro’s sister, Mily Zamora, said she and her family were struggling to come to terms with the terminal nature of AIDS.
Zamora said it felt unreal, and she wanted to believe that her brother would someday get up and walk out of the hospital on his own.
Gonzalez helped her understand that everyone has to die. It takes a special person to bring someone to that conclusion peacefully, Zamora said.
She was “so real that you could talk to her about everything,” Zamora said. “She really worked to do her job with love.”
Florida State Sen. Rene Garcia became friends with Gonzalez while he was in the Legislature, working to get funding for San Juan Bosco clinic.
Sometimes in politics, he said, you wonder why you’re still there, of if you could help more people in the private sector.
“She always reminded me that God has put me there for a reason,” Garcia said. “I will never forget that.”
Gonzalez kept an eye on Garcia in the Senate, making sure he was doing the most good for his underrepresented constituents.
Garcia said she even called him in Tallahassee a few times to ask why he’d voted a certain way. She joked with the other nuns that she had her own senator.
Garcia flew to Miami to see Gonzalez about three weeks ago, when he heard her health had taken a turn. He said her eyes welled with tears as they spoke, and she reminded him to remember his purpose in politics — to do the most good.
“I’ve never had anyone like her — a mother, a friend, a spiritual guide,” he said. “We need more people like her.”
Gonzalez is survived by her sister Ethel G. Dunn, her brother Edward Gonzalez, and her nieces Pauline Gonzalez, Vanessa Dunn and Melissa Cabezas.
A wake will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday at Memorial Plan Kendall, 7355 SW 117th Ave. Mass will be celebrated at 1 p.m. Tuesday at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, 12125 SW 107th Ave.
In lieu of flowers, Gonzalez’s family and colleagues request donations to San Juan Bosco Clinic.