My in-laws Lloyd and Joyce Laas Biry of Hallettsville, Texas were two of the finest, hard-working people I have ever known, and with them came other members of the Laas family, including Joyce’s brother Senator.
His given name was Wilburn, though I never heard anyone call him that.
When George Allen Altgelt and I were first married, Senator would stop by our home on 29th Street in Austin to check up on us, intuiting probably that we might need a consejo or two. He was always welcome there. He brought kindness, family news, and good conversation to two people who looked much too young to be married or to carry the responsibility of operating a plant nursery.
Senator was soft spoken, and always well informed, whether the topic was cattle or politics.
After George and I divorced, I lost track of Senator for a while, learning, however, the happy news that he had married Sara Puig.
I once visited them in Spicewood near Austin, amazed by the home they had built that was a marvel of environmental efficiency, a house so bound to conservation and rainwater capture that it did not have need of a municipal water source or a water meter. They were way ahead of the curve on water harvest, roof-washing, and UV sterilization.
When Senator and Sara moved to Laredo we saw each other at the ranch in San Ygnacio, enjoying one another’s observations of humankind and the lovely quietude of the ranch land in the lapses between conversation.
My granddaughters called him Uncle Senator, the third generation of us to have him in our lives.
There are many things I didn’t know about Senator Laas. Among them, that he was a pilot, that he loved to sing in a barbershop quartet, that he had an appreciation of poetry, and that he once upon a time played King Balthazar in the Laredo Little Theater’s musical production of Amahl and the Night Visitors.
What I did know is that he was a keen observer of character, that life as he had experienced it for nearly a century had fashioned his own.
Era un caballero.