HARLINGEN, RGV – My experience has been that some things, like death events, happen in “3’s.”

First, George Ramirez, the Founder of the Latin Jazz Festival passed away in Brownsville; then, in San Benito, Rey Avila, the impetus behind the Conjunto Hall of Fame passed away. Be it curiosity or cowardice, I thought to myself, “I am not walking out the door, ‘til I learn the name of number 3.” A text from a friend confirmed that my number 3 was Tomas Gonzalez, Vietnam Veteran and writer, who I used to meet at VFW 2410.

I will leave it to others to write a proper obituary about these admirable gentlemen that I had the honor of knowing. This is a reminiscence.

George Ramirez, pictured left, is seen at the Half Moon Saloon in Brownsville, a bar he started. Photo: Nydia Tapia Gonzales

George Ramirez, the owner of Polibrid Coatings, came to South Texas from California, after inventing a proprietary coating for seagoing vessels and other industrial applications. It is regarded as the most dependable and versatile product in its class. George could have, “rested on his laurels”, so to speak. He did not. He founded the Brownsville Latin Jazz Festival and the Brownsville Society for the Performing Arts. It was because of George Ramirez that I saw the great Tito Puente in Brownsville performing live, on a raised stage, about twenty feet away.

Rey Avila

Rey Avila founded the Texas Conjunto Hall of Fame in San Benito. Rey gave me an eye-opening tour of the room where the original Ideal Records tape recording and vinyl record pressing equipment was stored. Previously located in Alice, Ideal Records moved to San Benito, Texas and then ceased operations in 1971. The Texas Conjunto Hall of Fame in San Benito acquired the Ideal Records equipment from the owner and made it the core of the Texas Conjunto Hall of Fame. When I was a kid in the fifties, I used to listen to recordings of Beto Villa on the Ideal music label. You can understand why I got goose bumps, as Rey Avila toured me through me through the room with the old Ideal studio recording equipment.

Tomas Gonzalez

Vietnam Veteran and writer, Tomas Gonzalez, passed away last week. At the VFW 2410, his favorite spot at the bar was to the left of the ordering station. Tomas, a Platoon Sergeant in Vietnam, wrote an engaging memoir about his experiences. He lent it to me. I read it.

What was interesting, the memoir did not just include his remembrances, but also included accounts written by individuals in his platoon. Tomas also wrote a couple of books for children. I am headed to the VFW. Tomas will not be there.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows the refreshments on offer at VFW Post 2420 in Harlingen, Texas. Credit: VFW Post 2420.

Editor’s Note: Click here to read Nydia Tapia-Gonzalez’s article about George Ramirez and the Half Moon Saloon.

Editor’s Note: Click here to read an obituary about Rey Avila.

Editor’s Note: Click here to read an obituary about Tomas Gonzalez.