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Atwater Councilman Joe Rivero dies

Joe Rivero
Joe Rivero

Joe Rivero, Atwater city councilman and former Merced county supervisor, died just after 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon, according to the Stanislaus County Coroner's Office.

The cause of death is unknown. He was taken to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. He was 75.

“We just got confirmation that Joe has passed,” said Greg Wellman, Atwater city manager and long-time colleague of Rivero, after he heard the news. "We are just all very much in shock right now."

Ed Abercrombie, a former Atwater city councilman now living in Oklahoma, said Rivero was always working for Atwater and Merced. For 20 years they have been friends, said Abercrombie. The last time they spoke was on election night just after Rivero learned that his son had been elected.

“Joe was my best friend,” said Abercrombie. “ Joe was a guy that had the biggest heart of anybody you had ever seen.”

Congressman Dennis Cardoza, who worked with and has known Rivero for years, said that Rivero loved his community as passionately as anyone he ever knew. "He was always trying to do the right thing for his community,” said Cardoza.

Rivero lived in Atwater since 1960 and taught elementary school for more than three decades.

Rivero was an Atwater city councilman before being elected Merced County Board of Supervisos in 1995, a position he held until 2002. He was elected to the Atwater City Council for a second time in 2006.

Even early this morning he was at the Administration Building, perhaps on city business. He joked about how two Riveros now on the Atwater City Council would be differentiated. He thought they could just call him Mayor Pro-Tem Rivero, and his son simply Councilman Rivero.

Rivero is survived by three sons, Jeff, Joe and John Rivero.

Estell Rivero, his wife, passed shortly after Rivero left the supervisors' office in 2002.

Reporter Jonah Owen Lamb may be rerached at (209) 385-2484 or