The Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce reported Feb. 19 that Sara Gonzalez, the organization’s president and CEO, died of a heart attack late Feb. 18. She was 72 years old.

“Sara was a great leader as well as a personal friend,” Al Moreno, the chair of the chamber’s board, said in a statement.

Ms. Gonzalez served as the head of the chamber from 1996 to 2007, overseeing growth from 172 members to nearly 1,500 as of last year. She announced in November that she would be stepping down from her post in May.

Although Ms. Gonzalez had decided to retire, a Wall Street Journal article published a few days before her death made it clear that she in no way felt that the end of her duties at the chamber completed her mission to support Hispanic entrepreneurs in Georgia.

“I tell people every day, ‘It’s not enough to have a great idea; you also need to know how to build and run a business,’” she told the Journal.

Ms. Gonzalez knew that fact from experience. She fled Cuba for the United States when Fidel Castro came to power in 1960, and she eventually moved to Atlanta in 1975. Three years later, she decided to open up a Cuban restaurant here, only to see it fail because she didn’t have the business experience necessary to keep it afloat.

As president of the chamber, Ms. Gonzalez wanted to help others avoid those same pitfalls. She led the chamber’s efforts to establish the Hispanic American Center for Economic Development in 2001.

The business incubator, known as HACED, gives fledgling Hispanic companies office space and support staff, and more importantly, access to the expertise Ms. Gonzalez lacked in her restaurant venture.

A variety of officials in the business community have offered their condolences to the family of Ms. Gonzalez, who was survived by three children, Luis, Ofelia and Isabel, and two grandchildren, Paulina and Erik.

“She will be fondly remembered for a legacy of leadership in numerous groups from the 1996 Olympic organizing committee to the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce,” Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said in a statement issued Feb. 19.

Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin extended similar sentiments, saying that Ms. Gonzalez worked tirelessly on a vision for Georgia that “included everybody” and advanced the interests of the state’s minority communities.

Lucia Jennings, president of the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce of Georgia, said her organization mourns the loss of a respected leader in the Hispanic business community.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the sudden death of Sara Gonzalez. Sara was a wonderful friend of the Brazilian community, a great leader of the Latino business community,” Ms. Jennings said in an e-mail to members of her chamber and the international business community.

Ms. Gonzalez was widely recognized in magazines and news services for her contributions to the Hispanic business community. In addition to HACED, Ms. Gonzalez also launched the Argentine-American, Dominican-American and Ecuadorian-American chambers of commerce.

Sandra Font, vice president of the chamber, has been named interim president.

Sympathetic parties can express their thoughts about Ms. Gonzalez at a Web page set up by the chamber,

A memorial service is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 22, at 2:00 p.m. The service will be held at the Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church, which is located at 2715 Peachtree Road N.E. in Atlanta.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...