Concrete man: 'Give of yourself with no expectations'
June 19, 2013 at 1:19 a.m.
Updated June 20, 2013 at 1:20 a.m.
CUERO - Leslie Koenig is an angel who looks like Santa Claus and lives in Concrete.
Koenig, 61, has hung Sheetrock for a living for 38 years, but his profession in no way tells the whole story of the man.
"He's an angel," said longtime friend Mack McKinney. "He's always there when people need him and expects nothing in return.
"Leslie is the kind of guy who you could ask to borrow his car, and he wouldn't even ask why."
Koenig's flowing, white beard lends to the Santa Claus look, and he enhanced it a few years back donning a blue Santa suit and strapping on his Sheetrock stilts.
"Back when Cuero had a night parade, I walked it as the 'World's Tallest Santa.' We dressed up my nephews and grandchildren as elves," Koenig said.
"I still do it from time to time over the years at church events and other places."
It's at his church - Hochheim Baptist - that Koenig gives much of his free time.
"I pretty well do everything there but preach," Koenig said.
Koenig, who raised his four children as a single parent, wanted to find them a "moral center" as they were growing up and chose the church in Hochheim because it was close to Concrete.
"The old man who took care of the place got sick with liver cancer, and one day he gave me the keys and told me to take care of it and his wife," recalled Koenig.
"After he died, I took care of her until she died. Now, I take care of the other old ladies. Take them out of the nursing home and bring them to church. Take them out to eat."
The church's pastor, Rev. Dale Turner, depends on Koenig.
"He's just a terrific guy. He does everything you can think of around our church. He's an extremely hard-working man," Turner said. "And he won't take a penny, either. He's real humble about it and doesn't care about the recognition."
That fits right in with Koenig's philosophy of life - the Platinum Rule.
"The Golden Rule is fine, but it doesn't go far enough," said Koenig. "You simply give of yourself with no expectations."
Born and raised in Yoakum, Koenig left town the night he graduated from high school and went to Houston. He attended college at the University of Houston for a quarter before being drafted into the U.S. Army.
"Ninety percent of the people I went in with went to Vietnam," he said. "I volunteered to go a couple of times but never went."
Six weeks after completing two years in the service, he was offered a job in Houston with a Sheetrock company.
"I thought, 'I can work in a quarry.' I didn't even know what Sheetrock was," he said.
After working for a couple of years, Koenig began his own company, Rocking K Quality Sheetrock.
Koenig returned to Yoakum when he got sole custody of his four children - Karl, Joe, Mary and Nathan.
He later found property in Concrete and moved there. Mary and Nathan now live on their own homes nearby.
Koenig's children are a source of pride.
"I've been blessed heavenly," he said.
His oldest son, Karl, is an orthopedic surgeon in New Hampshire.
Joe - Leslie Joseph Koenig II - has a web design business in California and is a musician who went to college on a pole vaulting scholarship.
His daughter, Mary, is a clerk at the Yoakum Post Office, and his son Nathan is a homebuilder and carpenter.
Koenig has six grandchildren.
"He's done a tremendous job with his family," said Turner. "In this day and time, he manages to keep his family together although they live all over the country."
The family will get together next month at its annual retreat to Padre Island.
"There will be 40 to 50 of us, and we'll spend a week together," said Koenig, who takes the opportunity to surf on a board custom built by son Joe.
And it may be Joe who Leslie shares a special connection with because of their love for music.
Joe, who is back in Texas for a show Friday at Yoakum Gin and Feed, recalls his father taking him to church Sundays to perform.
But Joe didn't get his musical talent from his father.
"I'm the world's greatest listener," said Koenig, who doesn't play a musical instrument. "Joe's music has so much soul. It's from the heart. He's a natural artist.
"All his songs are different. He just reaches into his life experiences and pulls out some good stuff."
Koenig has endeared himself to other Texas music makers, often joining them on Larry Joe Taylor's annual songwriters' cruise.
"I've gotten to know a lot of the artists over the years and spend time with them," Koenig said. "I like good music. There's a lot of music but then there's good music that's worth listening to."
With a Texas musician in tow, Koenig also travels annually to his son's home in New Hampshire where Karl hosts an annual music festival and chili cook-off.
Taylor said Koenig is a bit of a walking contradiction in that he leads a simple life, but is a complex person.
"There's another side of him than what you see on the exterior," said Taylor. "He's got a style about him."