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Primitivo and Alfredo Garcia’s heroic act saves teacher and her unborn child

In-depth report
- A Three Part Series

Alfredo Garcia, 71 years old, has lived with a devastating grief that has been indescribable for the past 50 years. The pain of losing his older brother, Primitivo Garcia, in an act of violence in November 1967 has made it difficult for him to talk about the brother the family called “Tivo,” and still today the memories from 50 years ago are still raw.

As Garcia talked to Hispanic News, he said that he can recall the details of that evening vividly.

“I heard the gunshots,” he said.

The two Garcia brothers attended an ESL class at Westport High School taught by 25-year-old Margaret Kindermann (now Kelso). After class, Kelso was waiting for a ride home when several youths grabbed her purse. They tossed her purse between the group and eventually threw it into the street.

“I thought that was the end of their game and I went out to retrieve my purse. When I went over to get it, that is when they ran at me and knocked me down and started to molest me,” she recalled in this most recent interview from her home in California.

Primitivo and Alfredo Garcia rushed to her side and punched and pulled the attackers off of their teacher. When her attackers shot Tivo Garcia, Alfredo recalls being at his brother’s side willing him to survive.

“Margaret came over to help Tivo. She laid her coat over him. I remember her doing that and that her coat was white. I told her to get help, call for help and get an ambulance. I was very nervous but I said please get help and I will stay at my brother’s side,” he said.

The attack on Kelso happened on November 15, 1967 and tragically on November 28, 1967 Tivo Garcia died at the hospital during surgery as a result of his gunshot wounds.

Alfredo Garcia recalls dividing his time between work and the hospital. “After this happened to my brother, I never missed work and I was at the hospital every night. I was young, 21 years old. I didn’t have any other choice, I had to support my mom so I went to work. I felt really bad but there was nothing I could do about that.”

When Freddie Garcia, Alfredo’s son, was a young boy he had heard stories about his uncle who died saving his teacher’s life, but he didn’t have a lot of the details about that fateful night.

“My dad never talked about it. When the 25th anniversary came and it was in the news (Fox 4 News) that was when I learned that my dad was right there too. After that news story I asked him how close were you when it happened. He said he was a few feet away and that Tivo had told him to run away. My dad didn’t run away, he wasn’t going to leave his brother and that is when he heard the gunshots. It has been a really painful time for him. I can’t imagine seeing your brother dying in front of you,” said Freddie Garcia.

In that news report 25 years ago she said then that both Tivo and Alfredo were heroes and in her interview this month she reiterated that these two brave men saved her life and her unborn child’s life.

“Not only is Tivo a hero but Alfredo is a hero too. He was right there helping me to get away from the attackers. Only Alfredo and I know what we experienced that night, we have talked very little over the years, but I feel a kindred spirit with Alfredo (Garcia),” she said.

Listening to Kelso’s words, Freddie Garcia reflected on the unfortunate event that brought three lives together.

“It was an extraordinary thing that happened, something really bad happened that night, but on the positive side, something good happened, Margaret was saved and so was her baby,” Freddie Garcia said.

Primitivo Garcia was a hero that night and his legacy of sacrificing his life to save two others has lived in the Westside community for five decades. Freddie Garcia now understands that their were two heroes that night—his dad as well.

“Margaret’s words give me a clear picture of how engaged my dad was. When I was a kid, no I didn’t think of my dad as a hero, but I didn’t know all the details of that night either. I know now he gave all he could to help, they both did,” said Garcia.

This year as the anniversary of Primitivo Garcia death approaches, the family will gather at the Primitivo Garcia Elementary School, 1000 West 17th Street in Kansas City, Missouri for a celebration of his life and legacy. The program begins at 11 a.m. and the guest keynote speaker is Margaret Kelso.

Alfredo Garcia and his family have been honored by the elementary school being named after their brother.

“I am proud of my brother and I followed my brother’s advice. He told me to be good, work hard and we would have a good life. I have had a good life. I am retired now and enjoying life with my wife and children. November is always sad for me. I wish my brother was still alive,” he said.
For more information contact the Primitivo Garcia Elementary School at 816-418-8725 or KC Hispanic News at 816-472-5246.