By RAY QUIROGA
We have a poor habit of posthumously recognizing people for their contributions to community and society instead of honoring them when they’re alive. I’m happy to say, however, that Rey Avila was served much better. Throughout his many years of involvement with the preservation and recognition of Conjunto Music, Rey’s selfless dedication to the cause did not go unnoticed as he garnered a number of prestigious recognitions from a number of preservation societies and even earned the San Benito News Citizen of the Year Award in 2012. Even in recent months, he was recognized by the City of San Benito and the South Texas Conjunto Association. But Rey never did it for the accolades or applause. Throughout the years, he could have easily flipped his political capital into a run for elected office or demanded that a street, school or section of the recently constructed San Benito Museum be named in his honor, but Rey wasn’t interested in any of that either.
I don’t recall the first time I met Rey Avila, but if I had to guess, it may have been a good 23 years ago as an intern for the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center, which was in its infancy here during the summer of my junior or senior year of university. What I remember, even back then, was his contagious energy, enthusiasm, and spirit.
Rey has been described as many things in recent days – an historian, a force of nature, a relentless keeper of the past, an advocate for the preservation of cultural heritage, a music aficionado, an every man’s scholar, an authority on the preservation and importance of music, a man on a mission, a San Benito Greyhound, and most importantly, a dedicated family man and friend. Just as the history and music he so sought to preserve, Rey himself was a bridge, an example of how to serve, an embodiment of what true altruistic intentions can achieve. Second from only his family and friends, Rey loved his community and saw in its past the potential for its future.
Rey Avila may be gone, but his presence will be felt everywhere throughout the Resaca City, from the Heavin Trail where he and his wife took their pre-dawn walks, to Stookey Park where he would be frequently seen carrying his folding chair to watch his grandchildren play ball, to the Lady ’Hounds’ softball field to cheer on family there, to the Bobby Marrow Stadium where he rooted his alma mater.
RIP, Rey Avila. You are and will always remain a Resaca City icon.
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