Interim City Manager Jim Reese contacted council members shortly after midnight to let them know about the heart attack after receiving the news from interim Fire Chief Steve Hall, Councilwoman Annette Smith said. He notified them of the councilman’s death shortly afterward.
Mayor Luis Molina was on his way to Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock to visit Cuellar when he received news of his death.
“Early this morning, the community of Patterson lost a great Champion & Advocate in the passing of Mr. Eusebio ‘Sam’ Cuellar, Councilmember, City of Patterson,” Molina wrote on his Facebook site. “He loved his family, friends & community, and dedicated himself to making Patterson a better place! Sam was a strong leader who will be greatly missed.”
Cuellar, 65, had suffered from health problems for many years. In addition to being blind, he had been on dialysis for some time. He had continually served on the City Council since January 2005, and he also was on the council from 1974 to 1979. He also had served on various public boards during the past three decades, including the city planning commission and Patterson Unified School District board of directors. In addition, he had been involved in local sports and youth programs.
In 2005, the Hispanic Leadership Council recognized him as one of Stanislaus County’s Latinos of the Year.
Cuellar’s presence on the council will be greatly missed, Smith said, mentioning his broad body of knowledge and his sense of humor.
“He always stood up above the rest,” Smith said. “He knew and read his material; he comprehended his material. When you look at the physical challenges he had, he’s nothing short of amazing.”
John V. Azevedo, who served with Cuellar on the City Council and the planning commission in the 1970s, said the councilman always sought to help others.
"Sam was a great American," Azevedo said. "He cared for people. He did his best. He stood in there even when he had medical difficulties."
Molina urged Patterson residents on Sunday to pray for the Cuellar family. He said he plans to honor Cuellar and his service to the community at the council level.
More details will be available early next week.