December 30, 1919 – May 31, 2007
On Thursday, May 31, 2007, one of my heroes passed away. He was my grandfather, Jimmy Martinez, or “Grampy” as we knew him. My Grampy was quite a man. He was born on a farm in Lytle, TX and was one of nine siblings. As an adult, he married my grandmother, Angela Martinez (formerly Sanchez). He had two daughters. His oldest was my aunt, Virginia Garcia; his youngest was my mother, Elizabeth Ann Ayala. Each daughter had two children. In order of age the grandchildren are Richard Garcia, myself, Leticia Cardenas, and my brother Miguel Ayala.
Grampy was a veteran of World War II, where he was discharged after being medically disabled. This led to his involvement as a member of San Antonio Chapter 25 of the Disabled American Veterans. Upon discharge from the Army Air Corps, where he had been an aircraft mechanic, he entered civil service at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX. He also maintained a part-time job working at Penner’s in downtown San Antonio in order to ensure that his two daughters had the funding necessary to obtain college degrees.
Always a hard working man, Grampy was very proud of his yard and his home for as long as anyone can remember. Gardening was something that he truly enjoyed and he would maintain a variety of vegetation, with the most prominent being his beloved rose bushes. Most important to him, however, was family.
Grampy did all he could to make sure that his family was cared for and loved. As a child, Grampy would take my cousins, my brother and I to the park every chance he had. Anytime we had a day off from school, we would make a day of it. Shortly after arriving at his house in the morning, Granny would begin packing a lunch for everyone. Once lunch was ready, we would all pile into Grampy’s car, and away we would go. Each outing was an adventure. Our destination was always a surprise. Whenever we would ask where we were going, his answer was always the same, “Passamaquoddy.”
Once we arrived at our destination, we would spend hours playing outside in the warmth of the sun. He would sit quietly nearby and watch us play on the jungle gym, or sometimes he would even help us fly a kite. When it was time to return home, he would tell us it was time to go. Once again we’d ask him where our destination was, and his answer to that question as well was always the same, “To the best place on Earth, 1454 West Malone.”
Grampy taught me a lot of things that have shaped me as a person, a father, and a human being. He taught me at a young age that my father was not “mean” because he grounded me, but rather that he grounded me because of his love for me. He taught me that hard work was not a bad thing, or a punishment, but rather a means to a heightened sense of satisfaction and pride once the work was complete. He taught me that patience is your most important tool when dealing with someone less knowledgeable than you through his ability to never lose his patience with his grand kids while we were learning right from wrong. He taught me to always treat others with respect, and to treat them how YOU would want to be treated, not necessarily how they deserved to be treated. He taught me how to be giving, and instilled in me a desire to help people in any way that I can. His most important lesson by far was that family matters. Family is important. If you devote yourself to your family, your family will devote itself to you. The standing-room-only crowd at his Rosary was a testament to that.
I will miss my Grampy, but I will never forget him. He is now, and will forever, be a part of me and who I am. I, along with my cousins and our parents, are his legacy. Through our actions in this world, my Grampy will continue to live.
P.S. The funeral home put together a nice slideshow from pictures that we gave them. You can view it here: