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Michelle Renée Johnson Vela

March 9, 1966 ~ February 26, 2023 (age 56) 56 Years Old
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Michelle Renée Johnson Vela was born in Houston on March 9, 1966. Beloved mother, daughter, sister, wife, friend, and defender of all creatures, she was taken from us too soon on February 26, 2023.

Educated at University of Virginia (B.A. in Spanish, 1988), Rice University (M.A. in Twentieth-Century Latin American Literature, 1994), and Indiana University (Ph.D. Twentieth-Century Latin American Literature and U.S. Latino Literature, 2001), Michelle translated a life-long love of languages and travel into her profession.

Over a span of 24 years, Michelle taught Spanish language and literature, and U.S. Latino Literature, the last twenty of those years at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Cherished by her students, who fondly addressed her as “La Doctora,” Michelle was passionate about her craft and returned to her students the respect they accorded her. She provided abundant service to the University, chairing the Department of Language and Literature for close to ten years, serving as the Interim Director of the Center for Teaching Effectiveness, and working closely with the Spanish Honor Society, Sigma Delta Pi.

Wherever Michelle went, she left behind a trail of kindness, passion, love, and joy. The outpouring of condolences and reminiscences to the news of her passing demonstrates how many lives she touched.

Michelle asked to be remembered for her dedication as a mother, to her “sweet boys,” Liam, Dylan, Brody, and Julian. She was so proud of them, and of the young men they have become. Michelle was an animal lover, and couldn’t turn away any dog or cat in need of care. We will remember her dedication to the Spanish program and to her students. Her role as a professional woman exuding empathy and compassion alongside rigor and scholarship serves as a model for all who met her. Michelle’s friends and colleagues remember her sociability, her love of music and dancing, her gracious and generous hospitality. She will long remain in our hearts. ¡Hasta el cielo azul!

Michelle is survived by her mother, Katie Marie Ash Dawson; husband Roberto Vela Cordova, sons Liam, Dylan, Brody, and Julian; brothers Marc Aaron Johnson (Brenna) and Christopher Stefan Johnson (Adrian); and numerous nephews and nieces.  

Services will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 4, at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, 206 N. Third St. in Kingsville.  

Her family will be establishing a Memorial Fund for Spanish Majors in her name. In lieu of flowers, please send any gesture of love to the fund once established or to the Animal Rescue in honor of her passion for education and her love for all creatures. 


Donations to the Michelle Johnson Vela Memorial Scholarship can be made in two ways:

 By check:

Make checks payable to:

Texas A&M-Kingsville Foundation

(write Michelle Johnson Vela Memorial Scholarship in the memo line of the check)

Mail to:

Michelle Johnson Vela Scholarship

c/o TAMUK Foundation

PO Box 2202

Kingsville, TX 78363



To make a secure donation on-line, go to:

This URL is specifically created for donations in Michelle’s memory.






To send flowers to the family, please visit our floral store.


Memorial Service
March 4, 2023

2:00 PM
Episcopal Church of the Epiphany
206 North Third Street
Kingsville, TX 78363


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