Last week I wrote that I was accepted in 1960 to attend Central Catholic High School. I also mentioned I had just graduated from St. Gregory’s Catholic School in Balcones Heights from eighth grade. Besides my attending Central Catholic, many of my classmates from St. Gregory’s would also be attending as well. We looked forward to being reunited once again and continue our relationship throughout high school.
I was deeply saddened to learn that was not meant to be. I was uprooted two weeks before school started, along with my parents and five younger brothers and moved to Massachusetts over a thousand miles away to what I considered to be a foreign land!! I did attend a catholic high school for two years before moving two more times before college.
Ironically, moving back to San Antonio in 1972 after a stint in Viet Nam and college in Fort Worth at Texas Wesleyan College, (now Texas Wesleyan University) I was able to meet many graduates who would have been my classmates at Central Catholic over the years had I stayed.
Besides former HUD Secretary and San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros, radio personality and motivational speaker Sonny Melendrez and former Congressman Charlie Gonzalez, there was my longtime buddy, Oscar Zaldivar who passed away two weeks ago, a month shy of his 70th birthday.
I met Oscar when I joined the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce aka San Antonio Jaycees in the late 70s. For those who might remember, the Jaycees were a non-profit organization of young men who sponsored La Semana Allegre, the Annual Orphan Shopping Tour and numerous of other community projects to help the community. Years later they changed the by-laws to accept women as members and not just affiliates.
Oscar and I, along with 600+ members at any given time participated in those events for over seven years since there was an age limit of 35 to be an active member. We called it aging out. That is why we were called Junior Chamber which was created in the 1920s.
Both Oscar and I served as the President of the organization back to back. He was the first Hispanic in the organization to be elected as President in 1980-81. I followed him as President in 1981-82. As immediate Past President during my year as President we hosted the National Jaycee Convention attracting 10-thousand delegates from the 50 states.
As the outgoing President he was technically the host as we had many various discussions as to who was the official host of the convention since it was approved under his watch. President Ronald Reagan was the guest speaker months after the John Hinckley assassination attempt on his life. San Antonio was abuzz during that visit by the President of the United States!
Over the years Oscar and I stayed in touch along with other Jaycees. Some years ago he lost a leg due to a virus that infected his leg. His last ten years he moved around in a wheel chair. Still smiling and upbeat he accepted his condition and moved on.
When I was still a Justice of the Peace a few years ago, he invited me to speak to his defensive driving class talking about traffic tickets. Ironically after I left the bench I was issued a speeding ticket and had to sign up for defensive driving. Guess who my defensive driving instructor turned out to be? Oscar!
While in his class I thought he would be easy on me. Wrong! He told me that when I was in court, I was bound to follow the law and since I was in his class, I had to follow his protocol. I did and passed the class as he hovered over me to insure I did what was expected by law.
Back in the day we were also roommates for a few months which was really interesting. But we survived it graciously. I won’t divulge which one of us was the messy one.
I was thankful I talked to Oscar the day before he died. As previously stated, He was one month shy of his 70th, April 2nd. He was going to have a birthday party at his house with family and a few friends and I was looking forward to seeing him on his birthday.
At the rosary I was able to say a few words and pay homage to my good friend Oscar Zaldivar. I am sad I lost a long-time friend who could have been my classmate back in 1960-64, had I not moved. Adieu good friend.
Anyway, as always, what I write is “Just a Thought.”
Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and former Justice of the Peace and Journalist.