As he stood with his new friend, Jerry Lockett, at the entrance of H-E-B one morning while their wives shopped, every person stopped to say hello. Koonce realized at that moment that Refugio was the place he wanted to call home.
That was 17 years ago. He has since retired but says he’s not going anywhere. Refugio will always be the place he chooses to live.
Saturday night, more than 150 people gathered at the Refugio Community Center for the 80th annual Refugio County Chamber of Commerce Banquet. Koonce was named the 2013 Citizen of the Year.
A graduate of the University of Texas, Koonce began his career as an educator. He served on the EMS Advisory Board at Victoria College. He also worked for the Texas Health Department and as a field consultant for the City of Victoria.
“Bob developed and taught the first EMT course for Victoria College and worked on the 911 Committee to develop and set up 911 numbers and addresses for the county,” said Lenny Anzaldua, chamber president.
During storm evacuations, Koonce helped identify, locate and move special needs people.
An active member of the Lions Club and a member of the Refugio Volunteer Fire Department, Koonce is a first responder for the county. He is one of the frontrunners for the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Program.
“He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty to help those in need,” Anzaldua said. “In fact, he has built so many wheelchair ramps and made so many repairs, he probably deserves an honorary degree in carpentry.”
Last summer, Koonce retired from Refugio Memorial Hospital as the Director of Emergency Medical Services.
“He spends a good bit of his time fishing these days and helping his neighbors,” Anzaldua said.
He and his wife, Lucy, have two children, Jere Koonce and Katherine Pedraza, three grandsons and two granddaughters.
The theme for the banquet celebrated the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Refugio Public Library which was renamed the Dennis M. O’Connor Public Library in 1997. Decorations featured an antique library setting furnished and decorated by Manny Govella.
The chamber also honored its member of the year, Vantage Bank, and three outstanding students from each of the three schools.
School officials presented their school’s outstanding students.
The chamber’s outstanding seniors include Haley Newton of A-THS; Cameron Sternadel of RHS; and Lauren Cramer of WHS.
Other outstanding seniors include Aaron Cardinale and Seth Solis of A-THS; Coral Jones and John Wesley Shipp of RHS; Noorie Han and Lacie Jo Beall of WHS.
Clifford Charles Edge III, known as Mr. Kippy to more than 37,000 children he visits each year as the San Patricio children’s librarian, provided a humorous program.
Joel Garcia, pastor of Joy Ministry and former citizen of the year, gave the invocation.
Chamber member Golden Chick catered the meal.