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Community pillar of Cuero dies at 96

By Bianca Montes
May 17, 2014 at 12:17 a.m.
Updated May 18, 2014 at 12:18 a.m.

E.T. Summers Jr.

IN LIFE, E.T. SUMMERS JR. ...

Served as a captain in the Army during World War II

Graduated from the University of Texas in Austin in 1939 and from Harvard Business School in 1943

Was president of the Cuero Coca-Cola plant for 30 years and distributed to an eight-county region

Served on the Board of Directors at TrustTexas Bank for more than 60 years

Served on Cuero City Council and the chamber of commerce

Lions Club member for 75 years

Lifelong member of First Baptist Church

Father to two sons and one daughter

E.T. Summers Jr. loved Cuero - almost as much as he loved Coca-Cola.

It was his life.

Cuero Mayor Sara Meyer said several words come to mind when she thinks about Summers: Shrewd businessman, storyteller and loving family man are a few. But his love of the community is one that sticks out to most.

"When we look over the landscape of Cuero in the last 75 years, Mr. Summers' influence and support can be seen in the hometown bank where he served as president of the board, as a member of Cuero Industrial Foundation, as one of the first board members of Cuero Development Corp. and as a lifelong member of First Baptist Church," she said.

"Needless to say, when God made Mr. Summers, the mold was thrown away, as there has been no one like him in his community."

Summers died Tuesday.

He was 96 years old.

His funeral was Saturday at the First Baptist Church in Cuero.

Born in New Orleans in the famous Hotel Dieu, Summers moved to town when he was a child and quickly planted his roots in the soda empire his father purchased.

Working from the bottom to the top, Summers began his career at the plant washing out bottles, his daughter, Linda Wagner, said. He later became president and served in that role for 30 years, as well as the Coca-Cola Bottling Association in Atlanta.

Coca-Cola, like Cuero, was synonymous with community for Summers. And like everything else he did in life, he gave the brand his all - from traveling the world with his wife to building a floor-to-ceiling shelving unit in his home to house his soda memorabilia, which his daughter said will be housed in a Cuero museum.

Always community-minded, Summers was immersed in his town.

"I can't really think of anything he hasn't done as far as civic work," Wagner said, then joyfully laughed when she remembered he never served on the school board. "He was interested in everything."

He really believed in Cuero, Toby Summers said about his father, "He loved it."

"He was his mother," Toby Summers said. "By nature, she was always a really positive, upbeat person, and he inherited those genes - or maybe she influenced it - but he always looked at the positive side."

The elder Summers suffered a stroke in October and moved to a rehabilitation facility in San Antonio, but his daughter said the move didn't stop her dad from keeping up with Cuero.

Before he became ill, Wagner said, her dad would go to the bank every day "to talk business," and when he was in recovery, those visits became daily telephone calls.

"He truly loved the people that worked here; they were family to him," TrustTexas Bank president John Howard said. "At 96 years old, it was amazing that he still had the mental awareness of a young man."

Summers wouldn't hesitate to ask how the bank was doing, what its profit was and how many loans were made.

"It's going to be a void," Howard said. "It's something we got used to; it became part of our routine. It is going to be difficult knowing he is not there to check on us."

Summers served on the bank's board of directors for 63 years and was chairman of the board from 1990 until 2014, when he became chairman emeritus.

Howard said Summers was a visionary who helped turn the former savings and loan into the branch it is today because "he saw that in order to have that long-term viability in the banking industry, we were going to have to move and transition to become a community bank."

Summers also served with Cuero City Council, the chamber of commerce and various department boards in Cuero and was a member of the Lions Club since 1939.

"E.T. was a great guy," Club President Glen Portis said. "It's hard to get beyond that - everybody loved him."

Summers and his wife, Lou Cretia, who passed away in 2005, were lifelong members of the First Baptist Church.

Lou Cretia was the Yoakum Tom Tom Queen when Summers met her, and although he was already pinned to another girl in Houston, he fell in love.

Together they raised three children, two boys and a girl, who in turn gave them seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Wagner said she has fond memories of lavish Christmas and birthday parties her parents threw every year.

"There were so many people; it would become unreal," she recalled. "He lived a great life - they lived a great life. He was the best dad anyone could have, a man who taught me to never give up."

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