Sonja A. Garza (’88)

Much loved by her family and friends, Sonja Ann Garza passed away on June 2, 2020. She was born July 18, 1965 in Houston, Texas, to Florentino Garza and Alice Martinez-Garza Ramos.

Sonja grew up in Houston with her parents and three siblings, Lisa Ann Garza, Florentino Garza Jr. and Anthony Jose Garza. She was an excellent sister, friend, teacher, journalist and enjoyed running in marathons. She graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Arts Degree – with a major in Journalism and a minor in Radio-Television. Sonja began her career as an intern at the Houston Chronicle during the summer of 1989 and upon graduation, soon accepted a position in Beaumont, Texas from 1989-2000. She was a reporter and assistant City Editor for the Beaumont Enterprise, producing award-winning general news and feature stories. From 2000 – 2009, Sonja moved to San Antonio, Texas to become a reporter/ criminal justice editor for the San Antonio Express-News.

She successfully led a highly productive team of reporters who chronicled crime, court cases and disasters in the seventh-largest U.S. City. Sonja met and married Ronald Jaap on March 1, 1996 and after retiring from the San Antonio Express, she moved back to Houston, Texas went back to school to earn a teaching certificate for English and Journalism. Upon graduation, she accepted an English Language Arts and Journalism position in the Fort Bend Independent School District. There she taught six ESL classes, served as a student publications’ adviser, produced the yearbook and newspaper for 2012- 2019. Sonja enjoyed running and completed several marathons and enjoyed her life with many friends who shared the same desire to travel all over the world. Her love for fine art and music graced the décor in her sweet home. Sonja enjoyed entertaining her family and many friends and was an amazing cook. Her loving hospitality, infectious smile and laugh made her a joy to be around.

She was an intelligent, strong woman who would voice her opinion with passion when needed. She was always generous, kind and fun to all who knew her. She absolutely loved her dogs Maddie and Ellie whom she expected to greet her in heaven! Sonja was an award-winning journalist with solid reporting, writing and editing skills and an accomplished teacher who focused on student-centered learning. Some of her accomplishments include: She was awarded the highest honor for the Hearst Newspaper Division and earned the Hearst Eagle Award, the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors, awards in feature writing and specialty reporting. She was awarded the Employee of the year at the Beaumont Enterprise. She also volunteered for the “Houston Chronicle Classroom,” a Houston ISD advanced placement journalism program where she assisted in recruiting and evaluation students for the next year program.

Sonja is survived by her loving siblings; Lisa Ann Garza, Florentino Garza Jr and Anthony Jose Garza; her nieces and nephews, Lauren Ashley Arizmendi, Drew Noel Arizmendi, Audra Leigh Arizmendi, Reid Alexander Arizmendi, Layla Joy Harkey, Jeremy Hunter Garza, Stephanie Lane Garza and Jennifer Angelika Garza; and sister in-laws Krystan Garza and Sandra Garza plus numerous cousins. Sonja was preceded in death by her parents Florentino Garza and Alice Martinez Garza Ramos whom she has joined in heaven and will lay to rest next to her father at the Lawndale Cemetery.

Sonja will be missed by all those who knew and loved her. Plans are in the works to create a scholarship in Sonja Ann Garza’s name. Monetary donations to assist the family will be greatly appreciated. A benevolent box will be available at the memorial.

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