The Refugio community felt one more loss in the tumultuous year of 2020, as a prominent area figure passed away in December.
Apolonio Reynol Jaso, better known as Rey, passed away peacefully after a long illness on Dec. 23 at Dornburg Center of Compassion in Victoria. Jaso, born in Refugio on Aug. 15, 1938, was a career servant of the city. He served as a city councilman for approximately 25 years, then becoming Refugio’s mayor for 16 years. He was 82 years of age.
“He was mayor for so long,” said Mayor Wanda Dukes in honoring her predecessor. “Every time I would see him, I would call him Mayor Jaso. When he came to pay his water bill, I’d go ‘hey Mayor Jaso!’”
Jaso was born to parents Apolonio “Polo” Jaso and Odilia Rodriguez Jaso, and was a descendant of Don Martin De Leon and Ugenio Benavidez, founders of the city of Victoria. Much like his ancestors, he dedicated his life to public service, loyal to the town he came from.
“I remember when I was mayor pro tem ... I had to go to a function at the bank for him one time,” said Dukes. “He told me to always say you’re from Refugio and Re-fug-io. I said OK. I always tell people I’m the mayor of two towns, Refugio and Re-fug-io, because he always said that.”
Dukes learned from then-Mayor Jaso when she was on city council, and then later as mayor pro tem. During their time together, Dukes picked up another quote.
“Any time someone comes in and asks how my day is, I say ‘fine, but today’s not over yet.’ Because that’s what Mayor Jaso always said, and it’s true.”
Together, they worked on several projects, including working on Lions City Park and on the town’s Fourth of July celebration. Jaso is also credited with being an innovator for Refugio’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, which included a march from City Hall to Union Baptist Church, followed by a program at the church.
“He kind of initiated that ... to have that every year,” Dukes said. “He was one of the main organizers when we started having that march and the program.”
Another program of Jaso’s, Feast for Humanity, would send out donated food to elderly, sick, and shut-in residents during Thanksgiving each year. Dukes said she would like to see a similar program return to Refugio in the future.
For his career in public service, Jaso was commemorated by Refugio City Council with a plaque and picture in King’s Park for lifetime achievement. He was also employed by Quintana Petroleum for 29 years, and was an honorary member of the Refugio Fire Department.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Odelia “Lila” Alvarado Jaso, as well as three sons, 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, among other family members and friends.