When I think of our nephew, former Three Rivers’ Mayor Samuel “Sammy” Garcia, I think of his beautiful smile and kind voice.
He indeed, never gave up with his courageous fight with bladder cancer which was diagnosed from previous tests done in March 2020.
My sister Pauline Garcia (Sam’s mom) and I were watching the annual Live Oak County parade and wondering how Sammy was doing from his first surgical procedure the previous day, when we saw him in the parade route in the “elected official’s” vehicle waving to the crowd.
His love showed as he said, “Hi Mom!” We waved back and were glad to see him because we thought he was still recuperating from his surgical procedure the day before. As he was still the TR mayor, Sammy wanted to be there for his community.
That evening he and his beloved wife, Kathy enjoyed the evening at the fairground’s carnival with their children Anthony, Hannah and Samson. Beside getting on all the carnival rides, they had a special photo of the “Garcia Gang” where they were all fitted into western attire with cowboy hats, vests, chaps, and holding shotguns, pistols and rifles, and acting like “outlaws” on the run. (This photo remains in full view in their home and at Pauline’s.)
So much love, and the unity of a family of great faith in God, is truly displayed, not just then, but in the months that followed, until Sammy’s death on May 13, 2021.
Almost immediately after his diagnosis, Sammy was remembered with special prayers, and Pauline states that so many special individuals and friends greeted her with, “I am,” or “we are” praying for Sammy.” Pauline says that she believes that her son may have “bought people back to prayer” because Sammy said he could “feel that people were praying for him” up to the very end of his life. (I, myself have always believed in the power of prayer.)
Sammy started out with six weeks of daily treatments in San Antonio, where he stayed with his in-laws’ Pete and Molly Carrillo, and they and Richard, his brother-in-law, plus Laurie, his sister-in-law, plus wife Kathy took turns taking him for his treatments. As much as he suffered from the side effects and pain, he always reminded his mom (my sis, Pauline) “Jesus suffered more.”
Sammy’s leadership in church led many teenagers to make wise decisions.
There were many field trips and missionary work when he and his sister, our niece, Veronica, traveled to Mexico with Fr. Tom McGettrick. Seeing people in poverty, and yet so happy in their Catholic faith changed his view in life. He told his mom that he did not have to get a job making a lot of money, when he saw the joy of these individuals in Mexico leading a happy, ordinary life.
It was at that moment that he knew he didn’t want to leave his town of Three Rivers after his TRISD graduation to go out and seek his fortune. He knew he could be happy here and be employed to help him survive in his beloved town of Three Rivers and still be close to his mom.
He was employed under Sheriff Larry Busby as a peace officer when his special friend Linda Halbrook introduced him to Kathy Carrillo. When she relates their “love story” Kathy says that “they both, just knew”… it was love at first sight. (They were married on Sept 14, 2002.)
Kathy has a college degree in engineering and has an executive position where she is employed at the TR refinery (Valero). Yet her sweet personality makes her easy to talk to and to share her story, as she read Sammy’s eulogy during his viewing/rosary on May 20 at the Live Oak Coliseum.
Sammy was always known as being able to give spontaneous speeches, on anything and everything. He never wrote anything down, but always captured the attention of the audience like no one could. He had a gift to speak, and never held back from sharing that gift with others.
His words were filled with wisdom, and always spoke the truth in love. Many times, he would be asked for a copy of his speech. And oh, do I wish I had them. But Sammy spoke from his heart. God spoke through him to touch the hearts of those who listened to him.
Next week, I will reflect more on Sammy’s life of service. Until then ... Adios!