BROWNSVILLE - Funeral services for Bertha Garza, who worked for 36 years with Texas AgriLife Extension Service before retiring in 2006, are tentatively set for Aug. 6 in Brownsville, family members said.

Garza passed away Sunday afternoon at a San Antonio hospital after a yearlong battle with cancer, they said.

Garza spent her entire professional career in South Texas, the last 21 years as a district Extension administrator at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco.

She began in 1969 as an assistant county home demonstration - now known as a family and consumer sciences - agent, in Hidalgo County.

In 1970, Garza was promoted to associate home demonstration agent. She continued up the ranks of Extension until 1984 when she was named district Extension director of District 12, which is composed of 20 South Texas counties. The title of the position was later changed to district Extension administrator.

She distinguished herself through her work among the poor, colleagues and clients said.

"Bertha Garza was an icon here in South Texas," said Yolanda Morado, an Extension agent in Starr County who worked under Garza for many years.

"She was one of Extension's first Hispanic employees in the state," Morado said. "Bertha worked wonders. She was so innovative. She tailored Extension's programs to fit the needs of the people of South Texas, especially in colonias where they were so badly needed."

Garza created teaching techniques that were later adopted by Extension agents throughout Texas and other states as their Hispanic populations grew, Morado said.

"Since we in Extension had outreach expertise, Bertha taught us to collaborate with other state and federal agencies that had funding for specific health or wellness projects but no outreach, such as cancer prevention or diabetes prevention," she said.