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Goliad residents honor the past (w/video)

By Sara Sneath
May 4, 2014 at 12:04 a.m.

Brother- and sister-in-law Mary Flores, left, and Lupe Flores, right, pose for a portrait in front of a fresco of the Annunciation painted in 1946 by Corpus Christi artist Antonio Garcia at Presidio La Bahia's Our Lady of Loreto Chapel in Goliad. Mary and Lupe Flores posed as models for Garcia.

GOLIAD - Almost seven decades ago, Mary Flores came home to a red, two-story house, wearing a white satin gown and blue veil, to be drawn by the Michelangelo of South Texas, Corpus Christi artist Antonio Garcia.

Garcia used Mary's likeness for the Virgin Mary in his 1946 fresco of the Annunciation on the wall behind the altar of Our Lady of Loreto Chapel at the Presidio La Bahia. Garcia's depiction of the angel Gabriel, who told Mary she would conceive the son of God, was based on Mary's brother-in-law, Lupe Flores, 85, of Goliad.

The two were recognized Sunday when U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela gave them each a tribute he entered into the Congressional Record.

"The stunning fresco, which Mary Flores and Lupe Flores helped to create, is uniquely Texas and includes a cactus and a rattlesnake in the background," congressman Vela wrote in the tribute. "The beautiful chapel has been in continuous use since the 1700s and is one the oldest churches in Texas."

Mary Flores, 85, is a rambunctious, tell-it-like-it-is kind of woman. She grew up on a farm as a "country girl" but later moved to town when her brother was drafted, and there was no one to do the farm work. Posing for Garcia was difficult for her: She didn't like to sit still.

"It was very hard because you're young. You don't want to sit like that. It was boring," she recalled.

Mary didn't know Lupe very well when they posed for the painting. But later, she married his brother, Tony Flores.

Lupe and Mary were picked by their priest, the Rev. Paul Hatch, to pose for the painting when they were 17.

Lupe's mother, Guadalupe Flores, cooked for the priests, which is likely why he was selected for the painting. But Mary isn't sure why she was picked.

"It was far, far away in my youth," Mary said.

"Now, we're getting pretty old," Lupe added.

In the fresco, the Virgin Mary sits, her eyes cast down at a cluster of grapes in her hands. The angel Gabriel, standing, leans toward Mary, his hand in a peace sign.

Lupe isn't sure how much the angel resembles him in his youth. He didn't have shoulder-length hair, like the angel does. And he definitely doesn't have six toes on his left foot, as the painting depicts.

Mary looked up at the life-sized Virgin Mary.

"Do you see a resemblance?" Mary asked. "Don't you think the nose is a little different?"

In addition to Mary and Lupe, Vela posthumously recognized Kathryn O'Connor on Sunday for her financial contributions to the presidio of about $1 million, which was used to restore the fort to its 1836 appearance.

Victoria Sheriff T. Michael O’Connor, a distant relative of Kathryn O’Connor, received the tribute, also entered into Congressional Record, from Vela.

“As a child, every day I would go to her house to learn about Texas history,” O’Connor said. “She told me, ‘You don’t rewrite history; you restore it.”

Kathryn O’Connor’s grandchildren, Louise O’Connor and Kathryn O’Connor Counts, were not able to attend a Goliad ceremony honoring Kathryn O’Connor on Sunday.

Mary said, "It feels good" to be made a part of history. But for her, the Presidio is more than a historic site. It's where she spent time with her husband.

Mary's husband was a night guard during the renovations to the Presidio.

"We used to come here and walk all over," she whispered.

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