RENE TORRES | SPECIAL TO THE MONITOR
South Texas lost one of its most notable sons. Brownsville’s Frank Yturria left a legacy of service for future generations to follow. He was a rancher, oilman, conservationist, public servant, humanitarian, banker and veterinarian, and on Nov. 25, he took his last ride into the sunset at age 95.
His office door was always open to me and I was honored to be able to interact with a person that I considered a man of refined character. We had one thing in common, and that was history, not only local history of which he loved to talk about, but history in general.
His eyes sparkled with delight when our dialog included the idea of how he lived in harmony with nature. He demonstrated his passion for wildlife by creating a sanctuary for the protection of those unique creatures of South Texas.
The terrain, and the community that made-up his ranch, reinvigorated his life. He often gave me the impression, though, that what fueled his daily existence was the endless love he had for his wife Mary.
Over the years, my visits were short and to the point. Kathy, his secretary of close to 50 years, would advise me before I met with him, with a dampened smile, “Not today.” Nevertheless, he never refused to see me.
I based the length of my visits according to his mood of the day. I can tell you that we exchanged many stories that will remain embedded in the walls of his office; and whether popular or not, he was straight-forward in expressing his opinion, always revealing the unvarnished truth.
Yes, he was a public figure, but he cherished his privacy. He retreated to his office on a daily basis, where he was surrounded by family photos and other images where he is rubbing elbows with state, national and world leaders. His high school yearbooks were always handy, along with scrapbooks that illustrated the legacy of his family. His office gives you a pictorial view of his life.
Frank, beyond the ranch, was proud of the fact that he participated in football, basketball and track at Brownsville High. He joked, that as a backup center at 120 lbs. in a wet uniform, he could not endure a strong wind. His basketball stories at Brownsville High go back to the days when the Eagles played, at one time, inside the Hinckley’s Mortuary building, and later at the old opera house.
He vividly remembered events from this period that brought instant laughter from both of us. He had more than just a pinch of humor; in fact, at times, he was comical. His full athletic ability blossomed riding a horse, where he highlighted his roping skills. I was elated when he allowed me to write about his experiences as a rodeo cowboy. A piece that was published in the Texas A&M Kingsville Journal of South Texas.As a teenager, his ability to ride a horse was on full display when he joined the Gene Autry Rodeo. It was also there that he hopped along with Roy Rogers.
Oh! But wait a minute, beyond the dust and brush of the ranch, he was fast on his feet. Winning a jitterbug contest staged at the old Brownsville High cafeteria, he declared, “It was not a cake walk, but we won a cake.” It was on the dance floor that he outperformed his football teammates. In closing, yes, he was a well-to-do individual, but never advertised it, and he never gave me the impression that he was better than me, but equal to me. His most valuable assets were not materialistic things, but the wealth he had for God, family and country. He was a true patriot and a genuine cowboy.
René Torres is a native of Brownsville, a local sports historian, a member of the Texas Southmost College Board of Trustees from 2008-2014, and a retired assistant professor from the University of Texas at Brownsville.