Joel S. De La GarzaJanuary 18, 1952 ~ July 20, 2017 (age 65)
Joel De La Garza, January 18, 1952 - July 20, 2017
Joel De La Garza departed this planet seeking new adventures alongside familiar faces on uncharted shores. He set off calmly and peacefully, surrounded by loved ones, on a warm day in July. While he leaves behind his wife Erica, his son Joel II, his brother Hector, his sisters Arminda and Imelda, and many loved nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws and friends, he’ll be rejoining his mother Esther, his father Jose, his brother Jose Jr., his nephew Robert, his great-nephew Terry, and a host of other family and friends eager to join his crew on this open-ended journey into the void.
Joel spent much of his youth in San Benito, Texas, serving as an altar boy at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, playing sports, loving music (especially the Beatles) and eventually playing drums in the Mighty San Benito Greyhound Marching Band. A few years after his high school graduation, Joel met a girl named Erica in the church choir, and forged a magical relationship that would last the rest of his life. The two quickly became inseparable and eventually married August 14, 1976. After a few years as newlyweds, with Joel working at his brother Hector’s auto store while finishing college, Erica blessed Joel with a son - and the two became three.
Joel soon found his life’s calling in the institution of education. He spent the next 15 years of his life as a teacher at Bowie Elementary School in Harlingen, Texas, inspiring and providing hope and guidance to thousands of young minds. So many of his students went on to great accomplishments, but he always got a kick out of when they came back to let him know how “Mr. De La Garza” made it possible to believe and achieve their goals.
While many of his early successes were in the classroom, he also accomplished much outside of it, too. Joel built a basketball program for 10-12 year olds that became a source of immense pride and joy for him. In his 13 years of coaching, the Bowie Buccaneer basketball team won 8 city championships, more than 400 games, and made an indelible mark on everyone involved. He was also very invested in the PTA organization at a local, city, district and state level, becoming the first Latino ever elected as a Texas PTA Regional Vice President.
Joel went back to school and got his Master’s Degree in Education. He transitioned out of the classroom and served as an assistant principal for 7 years at Dishman Elementary in Combes, Texas. In 2001, Joel made a huge life change, relocating to Austin, Texas, spending the next 14 years as a principal in AISD. During this time he was able to lead two historically low performing schools to TEA recognized status. He was a fervent champion of bilingual education and partnered with Austin Energy to bring a very successful HOSTS program to Metz Elementary. His community outreach and activism and his commitment to student education made him a multi-year AISD Principal of the Year finalist, and a Betty Scharff HOSTS Award recipient.
All the while, Joel remained a family man, a music lover, an explorer, and a man of faith. He was very involved in music ministry, spending many years leading the choir at St. Benedict’s, he loved spending time with his wife, he loved attending concerts and talking music with his son, and was quite often found cheering on the San Antonio Spurs and Texas Longhorns. Family and community consistently remained at the core of who he was - always giving...always serving.
So as we say bon voyage to Joel as he starts his next adventure, we note the impact that his existence has made in our lives. We count ourselves grateful to have known him and look forward to when we get to join his crew on that next eternal adventure into the unknown.
Visitation is scheduled for Wednesday, July 26th, 5:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. with the Holy Rosary being recited at 7:00 p.m. Funeral Mass will be 10:00 A.M. Thursday, July 27, 2017 at St. Benedict Catholic Church in San Benito with internment following at Mont Meta Memorial Park.
Funeral Services are under the care of San Benito Funeral Home, 1400 W. Business 77, San Benito, Texas (956)361-9192