OBITUARY

Benny C Martinez

January 4, 1934December 29, 2019
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Benny C. Martinez was born on January 4, 1934 in Goliad, Texas and was one of eleven children born to Placido Lozano Martinez and Paula Cabrera Cortinas. Benny served in the U.S. Army, in Korea from 1957 – 1958 and from 1958 – 1962. He also served in the Reserves as a Medic at Fort Hood, Texas. All seven brothers would serve in the US Army with four brothers serving in WWII.

Benny was a descendant of the early Tejano ranching families, the De La Garza, Cabrera and Becerras, who established and settled Refugio and Goliad Counties. His ancestors explored and settled in the Texas wilderness over 300 years ago. Manuel Becerra, his paternal 3rd great grandfather, served as the first Ayuntamiento, (city Secretary) of Goliad in 1820 and held various public offices until 1835. He was also a guide to Stephen F. Austin. An Official Texas State Historical Marker documents his ancestor’s contributions and is located in front of the Presidio La Bahia in Goliad, Texas. On his maternal line, Benny was a direct descendant of Juan Pedro Cabrera and Maria Rodriguez de Bega, from the Canary Islands, Spain, one of 15 families who helped establish a civil government in San Antonio de Bexar and who arrived, March 9, 1731. Benny was a member of the Canary Islands Descendants Association in San Antonio, Texas. Benny was also a member of the Sons of the Republic of Texas, San Jacinto Chapter and joined under his 2nd maternal great grandfather, Mariano Cabrera, who supplied beeves in 1835, per a Republic of Texas Pay Voucher to Captain Phillip Dimmitt issued to his ancestor on August 31, 1853. Benny was very proud of his Tejano history and was proud to be a 9th generation Texan. Benny was a life member of the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) Post 8930 in Houston, TX. A member of the American GI Forum Lucian Adams Chapter, a member of the American Legion in Goliad, Texas and a member of the Knights of Columbus, Goliad, Texas. He was also an honorary member of the Goliad Rotary Club.

In 1967, Benny graduated from Houston Community College as a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN). In 1985, he obtained a Bachelor of General Studies Degree from the University of Houston Downtown College.

Benny worked for Harris County for a total of 35 years – thirty years as a nurse of which he worked twenty years in the psychiatric hospital, fifteen years in the Forensic Unit of Psychiatry. The last five years he worked as a Deputy Sheriff. When Benny retired from the County in 1997, he was honored with proclamations by both the county and city designating his retirement day as “Benny C. Martinez Day.”

Benny was an Election Judge for thirty years in Voting Precinct 79 in the area of Denver Harbor, Houston, Texas. He is a lifetime member of LULAC Council 60. His grandmother was the President of the Woman’s LULAC Council #2 and later his father, Placido also joined LULAC. Placido advocated for the Goliad schools be to integrated which was achieved in 1950. In the late 1950’s, under the direction of Felix Tijerina, Judge Alfred Hernandez, Benny Martinez and LULAC Council 60 members started the Little School of the 400, which was designed to teach Non-English speaking Hispanic Children 400 English words. The first program was implemented at a school in Ganado, Texas and the second one was in Sugarland, Texas. By the late summer of 1958, there were nine schools throughout Texas. When Lyndon Baines Johnson became President he implemented the school as the model for the Federal program “Head Start.” In 1965, LULAC Council 60 members created SER Jobs for Progress. Benny’s brother Raul was President of Council 60 at the time and Benny was Vice President. SER Jobs for Progress became so successful it was taken over by the Federal Government and was renamed SER which is a training center and a job placement center.

Benny worked in historical preservation and as a Past President of the Tejano Association for Historical Preservation, Benny assisted in obtaining a historical marker for Felix Tijerina. This official Texas State Historical marker was dedicated at Felix Tijerina’s flagship restaurant location at 904 Bagby, Houston, TX 77006, and dedicated on May 25, 2010.

Benny was also instrumental in obtaining an official Texas State Historical Marker for LULAC Council 60 as historian for Council 60, he wrote and was their guardian of their history. This history was reviewed and edited by Dr. Thomas Kreneck and submitted with the application. The marker is located at 3004 Bagby, Houston, TX, 77006 and it was dedicated on Feb. 18, 2006. Council 60 is now designated as a Historical Landmark in Houston, TX.

Through the efforts of Council 60 LULAC members, Benny’s older brother Raul Martinez was admitted and became the first Hispanic in the Houston Police Department. After retiring from H.P.D. Raul Martinez became the first elected Hispanic Constable for the newly formed Constable Precinct 6. Through the efforts of Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, who was then the County Commissioner, the Raul C. Martinez Court House, a County Court House Annex was named after his brother. Benny would successfully advocate through committee meetings for an HISD elementary school to be named after Raul in Denver Harbor. Benny’s brother Elias Martinez was the first Hispanic admitted into the Houston Fire Department. . Elias served about forty years with H.F.D. and there is a Fire Pumper Truck named after Elias at the Denver Harbor Fire Station #27.

As a LULAC Council 60 member, Benny served as Chairman of the renaming of 69th St. to Staff Sgt. Macario Garcia, who was a WWII Medal of Honor recipient. As President of the Tejano Association for Historical Preservation, he worked to change 67th St. to Cesar Chavez Blvd., which was celebrated on April 1, 2000, with four Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients serving as Grand Marshals in a parade held in Houston’s East End. The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Andres Tijerina. Benny also petitioned the City of Houston, City of Pasadena and City of La Porte to change Hwy 225 to Juan N. Seguin. Honorable Mayor Lee Brown agreed as well as the council members and the 610 Loop before entering Hwy 225 was changed by the City of Houston to the Juan N. Seguin Interchange. State Rep Rick Noriega, and Senator Mario Gallegos assisted in his efforts in having the Park Road 1836 that leads up to the San Jacinto Monument renamed to Juan N. Seguin Blvd. Benny also successfully advocated that HISD name an elementary school after the Tejano leader Juan N. Seguin.

Benny served on the advisory committee and fundraising committee for ten years to erect a Tejano Monument recognizing the contributions of the Tejanos, Spanish and Mexican to Texas. On Dec. 12, 2003, Benny as President of the Tejano Association for Historical Preservation, requested the support of Houston Independent School District to collect pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters in support of the Tejano Monument. The HISD School Board gave their approval and on April 20, 2004, 14,053.20 was donated by HISD school children and was donated for the Tejano Monument Project. In 2004, Benny wanted to create public awareness and fund raising for the Tejano Monument on a statewide level, so he rode his beautiful horse, Brooke Shields, from Goliad, Texas to Austin, Texas stopping at schools along the way collecting donations and giving talks about the Monument. After five days, of riding he arrived in Austin and was greeted by the legislatures who presented him with proclamations. On May 29, 2009, at 10:45 a.m. Honorable Governor Rick Perry in a historic signing ceremony in the presence of the Tejano Monument Committee and elected officials, signed HB 4114 agreeing to place the Tejano Monument on the historic south lawn of the Capitol. The Monument was emplaced on the grounds at the State Capitol in Austin, TX on March 29, 2012 and Benny sat in the front row center in a dedication ceremony that was witnessed by more than 2,000 attendees.

Benny has received numerous awards, the LULAC National Man of the Year, which he was awarded in 1996 in Boston, Massachusetts and in 2017, in San Antonio, TX, he was awarded the LULAC Elderly Person of the Year. In 2007, he was recognized by Texas Education Agency State Board of Education in Austin, Texas and was awarded a Child Hero award for District 2. His last award was presented by the General Zaragoza Society of Goliad Texas on Nov. 23, 2019 and Benny delivered an appreciative acceptance speech. Benny was presented the General Zaragoza Medallion and the inscription read, “To a Leader of the Highest Integrity and one to Emulate in Service and Citizenship.”

Benny served as a past president and member of LULAC Council 21 in Goliad. He raised money for scholarships by organizing hamburger sales and awarded the scholarships to school children. Benny C. Martinez believed that his greatest accomplishment was being part of LULAC, participating in the education committee and awarding scholarships to Students. Mr. Martinez stated that education opens the door to opportunities.

Benny passed away on Dec. 29, 2019, in Olmito, Texas, at Sunshine Haven Special Care Facility with his ever-devoted daughter, Melinda Ortega by his side. His daughter, Loretta Williams, had said her final goodbyes earlier with her husband David Williams and brother in law Gary Ortega. The family is indebted to the excellent care provided by at Sunshine Haven Special Care Facility, under the Executive Director, Veronica I. Lucio. The family ask that en lieu of flowers donations can be mailed to Sunshine Haven, 7105 W. Lakeside Olmito, TX 78575, so that others in need can continue to benefit from the excellent care of Sunshine Haven. Benny is preceded in death by Helen O. Martinez who passed away on July 1, 1976. Surviving him is his oldest daughter, Loretta Williams, husband David Williams, granddaughters, Helen Williams, Catarina Clarkson and husband, Kyle Clarkson. His youngest daughter, Melinda Ann Ortega, husband, Gary Ortega, Benjamin Kitchens, his spouse, Denise Pena Kitchens, great granddaughters, Kennedy Kitchens, Phoebe Kitchens; grandson, James Ortega, and granddaughter, Hilary Ortega. Benny is survived by his wife, Rosemary Martinez, stepdaughter, Elizabeth Figueroa, her children, April Pina Figueroa, Frankie Figueroa, and grandchildren, Hilary and Jose Figueroa; stepdaughter Debbie and husband, Mark Rodriguez, their daughter Melissa Byers, grandchildren, Jordan, Jacob and Aubree; stepdaughter, Estella Becerra, her children, Lucas Flores, Roy Flores and Joel Becerra; and stepdaughter, Angela Perez. This past Sunday, Jan. 5, 2019, at the Goliad Funeral Home, Goliad, Texas, a rosary was led by Ramiro Rubio, Benny’s cousin and also a member of the Knights of Columbus, with over 100 in attendance. A eulogy was delivered by Hernan Jaso, also a cousin of Benny and the ex-mayor of Goliad. The family is appreciative of the efforts of the Goliad Funeral Home, and its Director, Adrian Fulton.

Visitation for Benny will be at Forest Park Lawndale in Houston, TX. beginning Friday, January 10, 2020 at 5:00 P.M. At 7 P.M. a military salute will be led by John Aleman, Captain, US Air Force American GI Forum, Lucian Adams Chapter. Following the salute, a rosary will be recited. Mass will be celebrated by Rev. Henry B. Walker, O.M.I., Pastor at 10:00 A.M. at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. Interment will follow at 12:00 pm at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery with full Military Services to be held under the Auspices of the Veterans of Foreign War, Post 8930.

Pall bearers will be Emmanuel Manzano, Benjamin Kitchens, James Ortega, Joey Cardenas III, Alfonso Maldonado III, Kyle Clarkson, with honorary pall bearers, Jim Patrick Albert Harris and Roy Martinez.

"The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need, HE lets me rest in fields of green. HE leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. HE gives me new strength. HE guides me in the right paths as HE promised. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, LORD, for you are with me.

  • PALLBEARERS

  • Jim Patrick Albert Harris, Honorary Pallbearer
  • Roy Martinez, Honorary Pallbearer
  • Emmanuel Manzano
  • Benjamin Kitchens
  • James Ortega
  • Alfonso Maldonado III
  • Joey Cardenas III
  • Kyle Clarkson

Services

  • Visitation Friday, January 10, 2020
  • Rosary Service Friday, January 10, 2020
  • Funeral Service Saturday, January 11, 2020
  • Committal Service Saturday, January 11, 2020

Memories

Benny C Martinez

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Jorge Silva

February 3, 2020


I met him when I was 12 years old at Resurrection Catholic Church. My parents Cipriano and Alma Silva would sing in the Spanish Mass choir and he would play the Bass. I used to love to see him play the bass. As a kid everything seems bigger that it actually is, so I would wonder, how does he carry that thing? He was a great person. He would volunteer to have choir practice over his house a few times that I could remember. Not only was he a giving person, spiritually, I remember him, always as a Godly man. Well Benny once told me to never give up on your dreams. I believe that because he was a Great Christian Man he achieved all those beautiful things here on earth. Welcome Home Benny, You are a Infant in Gods home now. God Bless You, unknowingly you have changed the lives of many people on this earth.

Jorge Silva

Angel Seguin Garcia

January 10, 2020

We would like to say that the family is in our prayers our deepest condolences i remember when he had myself and linda and othera our on hwy 225 gathering signatures for the name change to our ancestor Col. Juan N.Seguin. He's going to always be in our hearts. When he said where going to do this he meant it he was our motivator on several issues when they came up during our quest to get hwy 225 And the road leading to the monument to be changed he said move forward make them see what really needs to be done and it was good advise they did change the names on the interchange at 225 and 610 and then the road leading to the monument.
Rest in peace

Rebecca Orzabal

January 10, 2020

Sweet Uncle Benny, such a beautiful soul.

To my cousins Melinda and Lala my sincere condolences, I love you so much! He was blessed to have such wonderful daughters.

Seeing Daddy and Uncle Benny when they were at the VA was so great for both of them. I know Daddy always had Uncle Benny on his mind, no matter how sick Daddy was, he always asked for uncle Benny "How's Benny", they were like brothers.

We were honored when Uncle Benny spoke at Daddy's Funeral. His stories and the memories of Uncle Benny will always be in our heart. He will be missed.

Love
Cousin Becky

Elias Sanchez

January 10, 2020

I met my friend Benny Martinez in fall of 1979 when I flew in from Colorado to talk to Leonel Castillo, a meeting arranged by Cesar Chavez of the UFW and William (Willie) C Velasquez of the SWVREP. I was being transferred from the IBM Research Center in Boulder, Co. to NASA JSC to work on the Space Shuttle.
The object of the meeting was to get an update on the Harris County landscape. Leonel and Benny introduced themselves to me and gradually became very good friends. Both encouraged me to join them in some introductory meetings with other people mostly in the educational community. I understood that Benny was very keen on both civil rights issues and historical preservation. Leonel, on the other hand, was interested in social-political and educational issues. My interests intersected the two. We grew closer as time went on, but our time schedules did not allow for us to work on projects. At NASA JSC, my schedule was roughly 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday. Benny was very interested in my weekend work with the community of Galveston County. He encouraged me to work with the LULAC members Danny Sendejas. With Danny, I met several active ILA (longshoremen) that were politically active. Benny came over to Galveston with me for several early discussions and became instrumental in me being received. Willie Velasquez of SWVREP in San Antonio said he was coming to Galveston to help me organize a massive Voter Registration project and wanted to talk to Benny. So all three of us got together with some local people for a very successful VR drive. About five years after I met Leonel and Benny, Cesar Chavez came to the Houston area and to talk to me in Galveston County. He was being driven around by Raquel Harrington of San Antonio, a long time associate. Benny drove up for the meeting and instead stayed until close to mid night. Many projects later, both on the island and mainland, the Texas political system became hotter as the organization Mexican American Democrats (MAD) took centerstage. WIth Benny's help, I organized Galveston Count MAD, went to the state MAD Convention and then hosted the State MAD Convention in Galveston. Benny became on of my key speakers along with my friend Ruben Bonilla from Corpus.
Ruben, with Benny's help, became State Chairman of MAD. Benny went on to help form the Hispanic Preservation Society with Dr Saavedra, Richard G. Perez and others. Benny drafted me into his group and I showed up several times to pay him back for his help. It was a good organization, very positive results. I am honored to have met Benny. He was a very good man. He made us much better.

Melissa Martinez-Alvizuris

January 7, 2020

Melissa Martinez-Alvizuris

January 7, 2020

Melissa Martinez-Alvizuris

January 6, 2020

Melissa Martinez-Alvizuris

January 6, 2020

Melissa Martinez-Alvizuris

January 6, 2020

Uncle Benny like his Brothers, was a tall handsome man. He was a family man. Loved his Daughters, Grandchildren and was a Blessed man to see his Great Grandaughters. He loved God and his community. Education meant a great deal to him. Tio I was Honored to care for you earlier last year. Memories I'll always treasure. "I love you mija" will always be with me. You are loved and are greatly missed.

Paula Martinez-Gonzales

January 5, 2020

My condolences to the family. Uncle Benny was a respected leader and fighter for civil rights. I grew to know Uncle Benny more while working in East End for Houston Public Library. Most days, one of his routine stops was at Flores Branch library. He would say "hi mija" and take his usual seat to read the paper. I often did service outreach to area schools and community neighborhood centers. And as no surprise to most, he was also in those same schools and centers often serving as a guest speaker to mentor and empower students. He was not on payroll to do service outreach, he did it from the heart. That was his gift. That was uncle Benny.

FROM THE FAMILY

Cindy Delano, Delma Delano and sister, Delia Delano visiting with Uncle Benny Martinez

FROM THE FAMILY

Goliad, Texas, 1942, Benny Martinez shown in the left hand center corner with his classmates, his hands are in his pockets, and he is wearing a striped shirt

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

Katy Garcia and Carlos Garcia, WWII and Korean War Veteran, dad's friend, who would go on to establish the successful Carlos Garcia Realty and host of the tv show Cita Con Carlos

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

Wedding of Benny Martinez and Helen Orzabal

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY