OBITUARY

Ronald Jack Laurenzo

November 13, 1949March 20, 2021
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Ronald Jack Laurenzo 1949-2021 On Saturday, March 20, Ronald Jack Laurenzo lost his valiant battle with brain cancer. His final hours were spent with his wife Tracy, his three children, Julian, Lauren and Chanel, and numerous loving family members by his side.

Jack was born in Houston, Texas, to parents Maria Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo and Domenic Thomas Laurenzo. After attending Annunciation Catholic School, Jack went on to distinguish himself at St. Thomas High School. A proud Eagle from the Class of 1968, he maintained a perfect grade point average while being a multisport athlete, excelling in football, baseball, and track and field. For his athletic accomplishments, Jack was inducted into the St. Thomas Sports Hall of Fame in 2019.

After high school, Jack received a football scholarship to Rice University, then transferred after two years to Boston College where he finished his last season 9-2 in 1971. After graduating from Boston College, he accepted a prestigious fellowship to study in the Department of Urban Studies and City Planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jack's classmates and teammates became cherished friends during his time in school. He kept in touch with many of them throughout his life.

While at MIT, Jack received a phone call that would change the course of his career. In 1973, with a little borrowed money, Jack's mother Ninfa opened a small restaurant in the family's struggling tortilla factory. She enlisted the help of her daughter Phyllis, Jack's older brother Roland, and had to ask Jack to leave school to help out as well.

His mother, lovingly known as "Mama Ninfa" throughout Texas, went on to become Houston's first lady of Mexican cooking. Jack was a powerful force in collaborating with his family to establish the iconic Ninfa's restaurants brand and became a pioneer in expanding the Texas Mexican food frontier. More than two decades later, Jack left the legacy of the successful Ninfa's food dynasty to establish his own identity. An accomplished chef, he launched Jack Laurenzo's restaurant in 1996, a nod to his Italian American roots. He also consulted with many other emerging restaurants during this time. Following these experiences, he became a senior executive at Gourmet Ranch, which was later acquired by broadline food distributor Jake's Finer Foods.

Jack was a high performing sales consultant at Jake's from 2011 to 2020. He was recognized for his accomplishments by the company's CEO, who said Jack personified Jake's mission of "customer first and integrity."

Jack enjoyed travelling the world, visiting Eastern and Western Europe several times. He climbed the pyramids of Machu Picchu, Peru, and in 2019 he realized his lifelong dream and traced the steps of Jesus in the Holy Land. Most of all, he loved spending time with family and friends, and made many happy memories with them at concerts, movies and sports events. He ate lunch daily with his beloved brother-in-law Tony Mandola. Jack accompanied Tony's mother, Grace Mandola, to mass every Saturday evening until she passed in 2010.

Jack will be remembered for his deep faith, wit, intellect, and boundless energy. He was particularly proud about his 18 years of sobriety and rigorously attended AA meetings each day. He was a beacon in the AA community, mentoring and inspiring many throughout the years.

Jack is survived by his wife Tracy; his children Julian, Lauren and husband Dr. Ike Nwanonyiri, and Chanel; his siblings Roland and wife Blanca, Thomas and wife Gina, Phyllis and husband Tony Mandola, and Gino and wife Mary; his stepsons Max Rizk and Noah Saldivar; his daughter-in-law Jennifer Stoker; his son-in-law Dalton Gerold; and his grandchildren Gabriel, Lennox, Maddox, Liam, Ava Marie, and Echo.

Jack will be missed by his numerous cousins, nephews, nieces, and other loved ones from the Laurenzo, Rodriguez, Mandola, Santos, and Castaneda families.

He is preceded in death by his parents Domenic Thomas and Maria Ninfa Rodriguez Laurenzo, and his nephew Rocco Laurenzo.

In lieu of customary remembrances, the family requests with gratitude that memorial contributions in Jack Laurenzo's name be directed to the Ninfa Laurenzo Scholarship Fund at https://www.tnlsfhouston.org/donate.

Services

  • Friends are invited to visitation with the Family

    Tuesday, March 23, 2021

  • Recitation of the Holy Rosary

    Tuesday, March 23, 2021

  • A Mass of Christian Burial

    Wednesday, March 24, 2021

    VIEW VIDEO

Memories

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Paula Rimoldi

March 30, 2021

I met Jack in 1990 when I was working at Birra’s. We spent quite a bit of time together in the restaurant business. He was always so kind to me and very protective. We met many years later at our AA meeting. What a blessing. He was a mentor in my career and in my recovery. The family is in my prayers. Thank you for the blessing of Jack. I will miss his beautiful soul.

Paula Rimoldi

Gilbert Trevino

March 24, 2021

I talked with Jackie at his restaurant in Houston. I recalled and he remembered his many accomplishments on the baseball field. Settegast Park , Mason Park . I knew his father and his brother Roland.,I will always remember you Jackie . My condolences to Roland and the family. I am proud to have known you as a student and outstanding athlete.

Gilbert Trevino Retired Veteran

Christian Navarro

March 24, 2021

Jackie was such a kind person to mom and dad. Remember seeing my mom and Jackie laughing and visiting at his restaurant on Richmond and Kirby years ago. Jackie isn't with family here on earth, but he has some loving company and family where he is going. Love you Laurenzos. Sorry for the sadness and emptiness that losing a parent, friend, and brother brings.

Jennifer Eliyahu

March 23, 2021

From Gabriel Laurenzo to Grandpa
Things to remember... As a role model you were the best. You always taught me to, Do the right thing, act with honor, have faith in God, as well as to take pride in my family and history. You were always there for me. Loved me unconditionally and helped shape me into the amazing man that I will grow up to become. I will always love you. I pray you are at peace with great grandma Ninfa and have our dog Kenji to keep you safe.

Jerry Koch

March 23, 2021

Jackie, you have been a giant in the St. Thomas Eagle community your whole life. Roland left huge shoes to fill, and here you came along and looked past his legacy and carved your own, amazing, joyous, personal story.
Thanks for your contributions to the STHS State Champions Team of 1966. We were supposed to be in a rebuilding year, yet with your contributions and some talented, rag-tag Sophomores, we held on by our fingernails and brought home the bacon.
Your life has been a lesson of faith, courage, and determination. You have been an inspiration in fighting your nasty disease.
You have shown us how to live with energy and joy and you have shown us how to die. We are blessed to have had you in our lives, especially your magnificent smile with your disappearing eyes.
Via con Dios, Amigo.

Debbie McGrew Ogle

March 23, 2021

I met Jack at Annunciation so many years ago. Even back then he was just the nicest guy. Saw him many times throughout the years at the different restaurants and he would always speak and we had fun reminiscing. I’m just so saddened to hear the news of his passing...RIP Jack..a lovely man from a lovely family. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord!

Raymond ESCOBAR

March 22, 2021

I WORKED AT EL TIEMPO CANTINA RESTAURANT ON WASHINGTON AS A HOST. EVERY TIME JACK WOULD VISIT HE WOULD ALWAYS ASK FOR ME WHEN HE ORDERED FOOD TO GO OR NEEDED SOMETHING ELSE. HE WAS FUNNY AT TIMES BECAUSE HE WOULD NOT DEAL WITH ANYONE ELSE BUT ME. THAT TO ME WAS A PRIVILEGE. JACK WAS A GOOD MAN AND FRIEND. JACK YOU WILL TRULY BE MISSED. CONDOLENCES TO MR ROLAND AND BLANCA LAURENZO AND THE REST OF THE FAMILY. RAYMOND ESCOBAR.

Mark Williams

March 22, 2021

Jack and I were teammates at Rice and I thought the world of him. Enjoyed seeing him from time to time over the past few years at El Tiempo and catching up. My heartfelt condolences to his family. God bless you all.

Jorge Pabón

March 22, 2021

Jack, I’ll never forget the days you cooked me those delicious spinach and garlic while I was sick, but the one thing is in my mind to this day and forever is when me and my wife decided to go our way and leave a life with Ninfa’s, you said to me: “ You’re going to be alright cuz, just remember, you build your business one handshake at a time”. Thank you my friend Godspeed

Joe Mustachio

March 22, 2021

So sorry for the loss of Jack. My prayers go out to the family for continued strength and peace during this difficult time.

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