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Judge Juan Velasquez honored as citizen of the year at chamber awards

By ALLISON MILES
Dec. 8, 2010 at 6:08 a.m.

Juan Velasquez

2011 CHAMBER BOARD OF DIRECTORS:Nancy Garner: Chair of the Board

Milton Chapman: Incoming Chair

Lori Zamora: Treasurer

Kathy Autry: Secretary

Lisa Hernandez: Immediate Past Chair

Judith Barefield: Member

Mark Cooke: Member

Tim Hudson: Member

Gabe Lopez: Member

Shilo Monney: Member

Bob Moore: Member

Randy Pollard: Member

Clara Prater: Member

Jose Rodriquiz: Member

Charles Wartsbaugh: Member

Source: Chamber awards banquet program

Things didn't always come easy for Judge Juan Velasquez III.

Born to a family of migrant workers, he was on the road a month after he was born and traveled with them to various work sites.

"A farmer even offered to adopt me because they knew that my parents would not be able to educate us," he said. "My mother refused to let that happen."

But Velasquez's parents encouraged him, and he rose through life, serving four years in the military, six years as an attorney and 27 years as judge for Victoria County Court-at-Law No. 2.

"I owe it all to my mom and dad," he said.

Velasquez was recognized as the Rotary outstanding citizen of the year Wednesday at the Victoria Chamber of Commerce's December luncheon. The 140-person crowd congratulated him with a standing ovation.

The event, which took place at the University of Houston-Victoria's multipurpose room, was a chance to recognize those who give back, said Randy Vivian, the chamber's president and CEO.

"There are people who go above and beyond, and they don't do it to be recognized," he said. "This allows us to single them out and let them know we appreciate everything they do."

Kathleen Carey, with Hospice of South Texas, took the award for outstanding committee chair of the year.

That decision came largely because of her work with Health-A-Rama, Vivian said. The event was well organized and run dynamically, he said, and this year brought in $15,000 in scholarship money for area students.

Carey said it wouldn't have been possible without help from the chamber team.

The award for health care practitioner of the year went to Rachel Wunsch, a Victoria nurse practitioner.

Nurse practitioners do more in the medical field each year, said Carey, who presented the award. Wunsch isn't just respected by her patients, but she also gives back to the community.

It was an honor to receive the award, Wunsch said, but she credited the physicians, social workers, chaplains and more that make up Hospice of South Texas' hospice and palliative care team.

"Without the team, I couldn't do my job," she said. "And I'd like to accept this on behalf of the palliative care team."

The luncheon was also a chance for the chamber to recognize its 2011 board of directors.

Nancy Garner incoming chair, said she recognized that the chamber means something different to a large company than it does to a small one. It's important for the organization to work together to meet everyone's needs.

"It's going to be really important to me that this board engage," she said. " ... At the end of the year, I don't want to have to recognize those people. I want you to be able to call them by name and know who they were and know that they were here all year long, just as I was, for you."

As for Velasquez, he said he was honored to be recognized, though surprised. The award is a nice highlight as he prepares to retire from the judge's bench.

"It's actually a storybook ending to a career," he said.

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