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Educators like Romulo D. Martinez, Maria Lydia Rodriguez, Rosa M. and Gustavo Zapata affected the lives of thousands of students over multiple decades. Nancy Vaughan Shary Cheever organized a movement to keep watchful eyes on local government and courts, and Joseph Michael Roseland bridged the gap between the private and public sectors, as a business owner serving on a variety of boards.
All were recognized for their work in the community by the Mission Historical Museum as the 2013 Wall of Fame honorees at a banquet Sept. 12.
Ben Olivarez, chairman of the museum award committee, said he came up with the idea when he chaired the museum board. To qualify, the honoree must have lived in or worked in the community for 30 years or more.
Olivarez referenced residents like Kenneth White, who served as superintendent of Mission Consolidated Independent School District for many years, and Jim Miller, who was born in Ohio, but lived in the Valley most of his life, serving as mayor from 1970-73.
“We had a pioneer deal for the pioneer families, but then I got to thinking we have so many people that have contributed to the history of Mission that have been outstanding citizens in the community, but they’re not originally from there,” Olivarez said.
Luis Contreras, executive director of the board, said about 300 people attended this year’s banquet. Money raised through the fundraiser goes to support a variety of programs at the museum. Contreras did not have a final amount as of Monday, but he hoped to surpass last year’s total of $20,000.
“I always say we’re very grateful and thankful to the community for investing in and supporting an organization whose main goal is to preserve the past,” Contreras said. “The event caps off the previous year and launches us into the next year.”
Upcoming projects at the museum include reconstructing exhibits and building a replica of La Lomita Chapel as an outdoor exhibit. Contreras said he hopes to have the chapel replica built by December.
Nancy Vaughan Shary Cheever
Shary Cheever organized OWLS, or Objective Watchers of the Legal System, 24 years ago. The organization included 63 volunteers who attended court hearings and local government meetings and reported back how on they were operating. OWLS still is going strong decades later.
Shary Cheever was born in Abilene in 1929, and she attended Incarnate Word College for Women in San Antonio. This is where she, at 18, met John H. Shary II, a young soldier who eloped with her, taking her to the Valley. The two soon had six children. Fifteen years after John Shary died, Shary Cheever remarried to an ex-boyfriend in San Antonio who, too, was a widower.
Shary Cheever joined the Service League as a young mom, serving as president in Mission. When her family made the move to Sharyland School, she often could be found in the halls, either volunteering as a library assistant, organizing class parties or cautioning children to behave.
Over the years, Shary Cheever also was politically active, working elections as a poll watcher and judge. At one point, she was chair of the Barry Goldwater campaign in the Valley.
CLICK HERE to view more photos from the event.
Romulo D. Martinez
Martinez spent more than three decades educating youths, starting as a teacher at La Joya Independent School District (his alma mater) in 1950 and retiring as superintendent in Sharyland in 1986.
Born in Penitas in 1925, Martinez earned the rank of Eagle Scout before serving in the Army during World War II. He met his wife, Rebecca Perez, in 1951 in Mission. He now has five children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Martinez began working at La Joya ISD, and he moved to Sharyland ISD from 1956 to 1972, working his way up to principal. In 1972, Martinez became dean of men and director of testing at Pan American University in Edinburg. There, he helped graduating seniors find careers, arranging “Career Days” to match students with recruiters. In July 1983, Martinez returned to Sharyland as superintendent until his retirement.
Through all of his work, Martinez remained involved in the community as a member of Saint Paul’s Catholic Church, serving as a Eucharistic minister and teaching at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church for more than 30 years.
Maria Lydia Rodriguez
Rodriguez has been involved with the museum since inception, creating the museum’s logo, which is still used to this day. She has four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren with her husband, Rigoberto, whom she married in 1956. Rigoberto Rodriguez, a teacher who also owned Pro Sports in McAllen, died in 1993.
Rodriguez was born in Mission in 1928, graduated from Mission High School in 1946 and Edinburg Junior College in 1948. She then was offered a job working for the Mission school district if she continued working toward her degree. Rodriguez’s first full-time teaching job was at East Side Elementary.
Rodriguez earned her degree from North Texas State College in the summer of 1952, and went on to teach Spanish at Mission High School for 37 years. When she retired, she went to work as a secondary homebound teacher position, teaching 50 years total.
In the ’90s, Rodriguez got involved with Leadership Mission, and she also served as a member of the Mission Historical Society, which dissolved and transferred its assets to the Mission Historical Museum. In addition, she volunteered weekly at the museum for a decade and was named Volunteer of the Year in 2006.
Joseph Michael Roseland
Roseland is known around the community as a strong businessman who served the community on a variety of boards at both state and local levels.
He was born in 1945 in San Antonio, and moved to McAllen in 1950 with his family. Roseland graduated from McAllen High School in 1963, before earning a bachelor’s degree in math from Pan American University and a master’s in statistics from Arizona State University. In 1968, Roseland married Rosemary Nemecek. They now have three children and seven grandchildren.
He taught math at Mission High School from 1972-1973, and then sold real estate with Cardenas Realty for two years before joining Brad Findley at Mission Insurance Agency in 1977. He and Findley bought Duncan Insurance Agency in 1980. Roseland now is the sole owner of the agency.
Roseland served on the Mission CISD board for nine years, and he served on the Texas State Legislative committee for Independent Insurance Agents of Texas for two decades. In Mission, he’s served on the Shary Municipal Golf board, the Mission Economic Development Corporation, and the Mission Chamber of Commerce, amongst others.
Rosa M. Zapata
Zapata has worked nearly four decades in education, volunteering in a variety of community organizations along the way.
She was born in 1942 in Lopeño in Zapata County, and she grew up attending Edinburg schools, graduating from Edinburg High School in 1960 and earning a bachelor’s in math from Pan American University in 1963. While in high school, Zapata began doing volunteer work for the Legion of Mary at Sacred Heart Church, helping children prepare for their sacraments.
She graduated from college the evening after she married Gustavo Zapata in 1963, going on to teach at Pearson Elementary School. Zapata moved to Mission High School in 1965, and then taught at Sharyland ISD for a year in 1968 before returning to Mission High to teach math. Zapata earned a master’s degree in education from Pan American University in 1973 and worked as a counselor at Mission High School from 1972 to 1996 when she retired. After retiring, she worked as a counselor at South Texas Community College for six years.
Zapata has been involved in a cross-section of organizations, from the Texas Personnel and Guidance Association to the Easter Seals Society to City of Mission Election Commission.
Gustavo Zapata served as principal of Mission High School for more than 20 years before retiring, and he continued to work at the Edinburg and La Joya school districts in a variety of roles even though he was retired.
He was born in Los Ebanos/Cuevitas in 1939, attended La Joya ISD schools and graduated third of his class in 1957. He graduated Pan American University in 1961 after lettering in track. Gustavo Zapata then earned a master’s degree from Texas A&I in 1964 with a major in administrative education.
Gustavo Zapata began teaching at Citriana (now Castro) Elementary in 1961, and he taught at Mission Jr. High, Mission High School, and Sharyland Jr. and Sr. High School before he was named assistant principal at Mission High School in 1969. He moved on to become principal at Pearson Elementary in 1970 and ultimately became principal at Mission High School in 1973, working there until 1996. National Future Farmers of America named him Outstanding High School Administrator in 1988.
Also, Gustavo Zapata officiated football and basketball games from 1961-1986, and he was given the Honorary Life Member award from the Rio Grande Valley Basketball Coaches Association in 1999.
Gustavo and Rosa Zapata have two children and two grandchildren. The two have sponsored annual scholarships for Mission CISD since 1999 and La Joya ISD since 2001.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.