For the third year, the Mission Historical Museum’s annual banquet program centered around a tribute to people who have contributed personally to Mission’s history and success over the past 30 years or longer. Seven local residents were named to the museum’s “Wall of Fame” during the event held Sept. 22 at The Club at Cimarron.
The 2011 honorees were Bill Dondlinger, former Congressman Eligio “Kika” and Lucille de la Garza, Mary Guerra, Estella Salinas, and Pat and Virginia Townsend.
Each of those honored was introduced by emcee Neo Canales, who read a brief narrative of their contributions to Mission, as a slideshow of photos from their past was projected on a screen.
William S. “Bill” Dondlinger
William “Bill” Dondlinger grew up in Mission, graduating from Mission High School in 1949 where he played fullback for the Eagles. Bill is the third generation of the Dondlinger family to maintain a business in downtown Mission. His grandfather, Peter Dondlinger, was owner of Palace of Sweets from 1908-1917. His father, Aloys “Don” Dondlinger, began his career as a downtown businessman in 1917, as he owned Dondlinger Grocery and Dondlinger’s Furniture & Home Appliances.
Bill joined his father in Dondlinger’s Inc., later purchasing the business and expanding it to include The Bed Room Store in the 1970s. He continued to run the business until 1996, when illness forced him to retire and close the store, which he had run at 1020 Conway for 40 years. There had been a Dondlinger family business in downtown Mission for 88 years.
Canales described Mary Guerra as “a remarkable woman with a strong will” who started her own business just out of high school. After attending beauty school in Harlingen for eight to nine months, she started her own business in the family home. Together with a friend, Hilda Pena, M&H Beauty Shop was opened at 216 N. Mayberry in August 1958. For over 45 years, Mary has also worked for the local funeral homes, styling hair for the departed.
Estella Guerra Salinas
Born in Mission July 20, 1927 to Pedro and Librada Guerra, Estella Guerra Salinas graduated from Mission High School in 1945. After graduation from McAllen Business College in 1946, she went to work for the Mission ISD Tax Office as Deputy Tax Collector with Leo H. Marcell.
In 1949-1952, Estella worked at the Hidalgo-Starr Local Draft Board, PSJA School Tax Office, Mission CISD tax office, and at Region One in Edinburg. She was the first woman to be the business manager for the La Joya Independent School District. She later went to work for the Texas Rehabilitation Commission (TRC), where she retired after 15 years.
Estella has been very active in Mission all of her life. She is a member of the Asociacion Guadalupana, Catholic Daughters of America, Court St. Rose of Lima No. 827, and Damas Catolicas. She served on the Leadership Mission board for 12 years, holding various positions. She was awarded the Yellow Rose of Texas by Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe, and in 1992 was voted Mission’s Woman of the Year.
She is a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church and through the years has done research for the Oblate office in San Antonio and the Historical Commission on the history of the building and the priests that have served in the parish. She has served as a Eucharist and Liturgical minister for many years.
She is a charter member of the Historical Society and Mission Historical Museum. She continues to support the museum as an active member.
Pat Townsend Sr.
Pat Townsend Sr.’s mother, Virginia Wagner Townsend, came to Mission in 1914. He has fond memories of coming into town as a young boy working as a sacker in the grocery store in Sharyland, attending services at St. Paul’s Catholic Church and being an altar boy at John Shary’s funeral.
Pat was involved in the family business, Townsend Implement Company, for over 45 years and was the owner of Woody’s Drive-in Grocery, which was located on Conway Avenue for several years.
Pat was head of food preparation for the Mission-McAllen Beef Syndicate for many years. He always supported Future Farmers of America projects, and he was instrumental in forming a Band Boosters Club in Sharyland when the band was started in 1972, and he actively supported the Athletic Club. He has been an active member of Rotary International for 36 years. After Pat retired, he started working as a volunteer at Mission Regional Medical Center and currently serves as a member of the Parks and Recreation Board of the City of Mission.
Virginia’s first contact with Mission was 1951 when she was Duchess of Calamondin, representing the City of San Juan in the Texas Citrus Fiesta parade.
Virginia and Pat were married at St. Paul’s Church in 1953 and raised their nine children on Taylor Road. They raised their family with the belief to be active and involved in the community and help make it a better place to live. Realizing you have to be a good example if you want your children to learn, both Pat and Virginia have tried to lead.
When she decided to get involved, she attended school board meetings, city meetings, and county meetings. She served on the Sharyland school board for nine years and in 1989 helped start the O.W.L.S. (Objective Watchers of the Legal System). She and her co-workers go to County Commissioners’ Court meetings and sit in court cases when they are called.
Virginia has been active at St. Paul’s Catholic Church for 59 years, where she played the organ and served with the Altar Society. In 1991, she took on a challenge with her long-time friend, Melania Davis, to develop an unused corner of the church’s property into a prayer garden. They moved forward seeking donations and support. The garden now serves people of all faiths, providing a tranquil setting for prayer and meditation.
In 1989, Virginia was selected as First Lady of Mission.
One interest both Pat and Virginia share is taking part in the city’s trips to Sister Cities in Mexico to promote a better understanding of our neighbors to the South of our Border.
Eligio “Kika” de la Garza
Eligio “Kika” de la Garza walked the path of the American dream, from his deep, South Texas roots to Washington, D.C., as he went from shining shoes for five cents to congressman.
Raised in Mission, he attended Our Lady of Guadalupe School. Skipping a grade, he went directly to Mission High School. Instead of graduating, he skipped his senior year and joined the Navy at age 17 in 1944. After serving his country, he returned to high school and took the courses needed for college to attend Edinburg Junior College. When he transferred to St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, he majored in government and prepared for law school. After entering St. Mary’s Law School, he was called back into the service. But after artillery training in Fort Sill, Okla., he was able to return and graduate with the St. Mary’s Law School Class of 1951.
In 1952, at the age of 25, de la Garza was elected to the state legislature. Upon Congressman Joe Kilgore’s retirement, in 1965 de la Garza won Kilgore’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives where he served for 32 years.
He became first Hispanic to chair a standing committee of the House of Representatives since 1917 and was assigned to the Committee on Agriculture. He rose to become chairman of the Agriculture Committee, serving as chairman from 1981-1994.
For Kika, dreams became reality in a journey that took a simple shoeshine boy from the streets of downtown Mission to meeting foreign ministers, emperors, and presidents and earning awards, honors, and recognition for dedicated service to his community, state and country.
Lucille Alamia de la Garza
Lucille Alamia de la Garza, daughter of Hidalgo County attorney Joe V. Alamia and Estella Schunior Alamia, was born and raised in Edinburg. A fourth generation Democrat, she traces her roots back to her great-grandfather, Charles Schunior, who was a Hidalgo County Commissioner in the late 1800s.
At the age of 17, after graduating from high school and business college, she went to work at the Hidalgo County automobile licensing department where she soon worked her way up to department head at the age of 23.
Lucille married Kika in 1953 and they have three children, Jorge, Mike, and Angela.
In her community service, Lucille has visited schools, youth clubs, religious ceremonies, and other events in the Valley in support of organizations such as Headstart, Amigos del Valle, the Expanded Nutrition Program, Teach for America, Boys and Girls Club, adult daycares, the Food Bank, and the Senior Companion and Foster Grandparents programs.
She was honored by the UTPA on Founders Day, selected Mother of the Year in 1996 by AVANCE, named Distinguished Democrat by Hidalgo County Democratic Party, and the City of Mission dedicated a Butterfly Garden in her honor in 2003. She is currently on the advisory board of North American Butterfly Association. Lucille and Kika have been named Notable Valley Hispanics by the UTPA library and in 2005 both were inducted into the Borderfest Walk of Fame.
“This soft-spoken woman has equally matched her spouse as she has also rendered years of dedicated service to her community, state and country, directly and indirectly,” said Canales.
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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.