Entrepreneur’s legacy lives on in Nogales

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For some of Mexico’s poorest children, the decision by Jose Canchola’s family to sell his three McDonald’s restaurants meant Christmas was to be a less merry one.

Instead, a new holiday tradition was born.

Dec. 1 was the date that the sale of the three fast-food locations in Nogales, Ariz., became official.

Canchola had been diagnosed with cancer and the disease eventually progressed to the point of his requiring hospice care, which prompted the family to make its decision.

The businessman and philanthropist died Jan. 7 at age 76 after his yearlong battle with the disease.  Survivors included his wife of more than 50 years, Carmen; six children; 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

However, new owners Gael and Mark Pullen say they were buying more than just places to grab a burger. They were buying the sites of a long-time tradition. For three decades until last year, Canchola annually had arranged for thousands of Sonoran children to be bused across the border to celebrate Christmas with a meal and to receive toys and clothes.

With no time to prepare, the Pullens told the community there would be no celebration this year. That’s when volunteers from throughout the area banded together to gather donations and coordinate a party.

Instead of Christmas, the event was held for thousands of Nogales children from both sides of the border on New Year’s Day. Call it a new date for a new tradition.

Somewhere, Canchola is smiling.

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