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Working for life

By Frank Tilley
July 22, 2013 at 2:22 a.m.

Kicking back in his lawn chair sitting under the shade of a tree on Highway 59 near the airport, 83-year-old Willie Garcia Jr. makes a very modest income selling produce at his roadside stand. "I make $40. I spend $20 and put $20 in my pocket; that's not too bad, 'eh?"

Willie Garcia Jr.'s face shows signs of age etched by the sun over his 83-year life span.

Garcia worked in the rice fields for $7 a day in his youth, hardly a sum of money by 1946 standards.

Married at 16, Garcia and his wife had 16 children - 8 boys and 8 girls. Garcia jokingly said, "I told my wife, 'When the children go, I'm going out of here, buddy.'"

Sick and hurting from a case of the shingles, Garcia moved in with one of his daughters in Victoria.

Never one to be idle, Garcia wanted to stay active and realized that trying to live on a Social Security check of $100 a month wasn't going to be enough, so he decided to sell watermelons like he had in the past.

For the past three years, Willie has staked out a spot on Houston Highway near the airport, where he sets up his crates of watermelons, honey and jams. "Some days I make a little money; on some, I don't."

Several cars pulled up intermittently and rolled down their windows to buy a watermelon while others came by just to visit and taste test the melons, which are from the Rio Grande Valley.

"I make $40. I spend $20 and put $20 in my pocket; that's not too bad, 'eh?"

Moving around with the energy of a young kid, Willie is constantly talking, joking and reminiscing about the past, his ranch and horses and even thoughts of God and prayer.

"I pray to God to help me; pray for Willie," he says with a crooked smile and a little sparkle in his eye.

"I've got to work. If I stop working, I'll die."



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