Monday, December 4th, Robert Lerma, peacefully, passed away at home with his wife, as he wished. Glory to God. He left behind a wife, two sisters, a brother, a son, a daughter, five grandchildren, and four great grandchildren.
Born and raised in Belton, he had a fine childhood. He enjoyed amenities a lot of kids didn’t have at the time; the first TV on the block and a snow cone machine! However, it wasn’t without trials. He started elementary school only speaking Spanish but with the help of a sweet girl he made it through. She later became a teacher who taught his son and daughter. Primary school time was short lived because he started working at a young age. Education was paramount to him. He would go on to get his GED and an Associate’s degree from Temple College in Drafting and Design. He also studied and got his inspector’s license, expecting to one day have an inspection business. He was sharp to say the least.
His intelligence showed when he chose Stella Castillo as his wife. They married October 28th 1957 and were married for 56 years. Together they had a son and daughter or what’s known as a ‘rich man’s family’. He provided a good middle class life for his children. The children never needing or wanting anything. His family enjoyed summer vacations to amusement parks and other fun outings. They both worked hard and amassed a worthy estate for the family and his family’s future generations.
His life was work. Like mentioned before he started at a young age, 14. His first job was on a local ranch of wealthy family. They paid well for that time and seeing the value of money he knew he needed to work. He had a few jobs after that, driver, railroad, construction then settled at Materials Transportation Corporation for about a decade. He started on the floor and worked his way up to the draft room with the engineers. He was doing blueprints and designs for them. They knew value when they saw it. After leaving that position, he became an entrepreneur or small business owner by starting a Mexican restaurant, Juanita’s Tamale Shop, named after his mother-in-law. He ran it for over 15 years. He was known for jumbo burritos and tamales. The tamales even won the local Bluebonnet Award for ‘best tamale in town’ a couple of years in a row! But more importantly he paid well above minimum wage, back then. Which is admirable because he understood minimum wage wasn’t a living wage, so admirable. When that chapter ended, he found a good position at Texas Hydraulics as a welder and machinist. He says some of his co workers called him ‘Timer’, as in Old Timer. How endearing and funny. He liked the job and the people but not having to get up so early. Even at the end he said he was going to go back to work there.
While he had an unmatched work ethic, he did find time for some hobbies. He played recreational softball for his employer for a few years. He was catcher and had a nice swing. Most time he got on base. He took flying lessons at the Temple Airport. He described a time when the instructor put them in a death spiral, straight down to show how to maneuver the plane in that situation. He liked a nice cold one, whenever possible, too. He enjoyed music. One of his favorite memories was when he and Stella lived in south Austin and they went to see Ralo Malo at Shady Grove. It was a free concert with limited seating. When they got there, the only place they saw to sit was at a four seat table that had a couple was already sitting at. He asked if he and Stella could sit there too. The couple agreed. They drank and talked and listened to Ralo Malo with that couple, had a great time. The couple left before he and Stella. When he went to pay the bill that couple had paid for it! At the end he watched a lot of live music concerts. It was his favorite.
Robert was a good man, not perfect, but good. He treated people justly. He tried to help who he could and was taken advantage of sometimes because of his generosity. He never let it get to him because he knew if he worked hard it would come back. He provided a good life for his family and a good future for the next generations. He will be missed but never forgotten. Love you Dad. RIP