Many dads have one major life moment that resets their perspective on faith and family.

Victoria dad Lupe Villarreal had three.

For the father of seven, these moments in his 43 years of life have guided him and his family toward their Christian faith. Now, he has united his family around the church, opened a school with his high-school sweetheart and is no longer living in a state of being “numb to everything,” he said.

“If someone takes the father out of the home,” he said, “they can destroy the home.”

Villarreal’s home consists of wife Angelique Villarreal, seven children, whose ages range from 4 to 24, and himself. Almost every week, the family sits in the first row at Riverside Church, 107 Evan Circle in Victoria.

The death of Villarreal’s brother, his own incarceration and a traumatic injury to his second-youngest child are three moments that have molded his outlook on fatherhood and faith, said Lupe Villarreal’s son, Kane Villarreal, 24.

When Lupe Villarreal was 18 years old, his 24-year-old brother died along Port Lavaca Highway near the small Victoria County community of DaCosta.

After that, Villarreal had “so much anger” and was on a rampage, he said.

“I was numb to everything that was happening to me at that time,” the father said. “I was a young man, and I was just going through the motions. It was like I was in a nightmare.”

Then in 1999, Villarreal was incarcerated after he was convicted of aggravated assault while his wife was six-months pregnant with their son, Kane Villarreal, causing the soon-to-be father to be separated from loved ones until 2001.

“I had such a hard heart,” he said.

Lupe and his wife resumed their relationship when he returned from prison, and they began growing their family.

The early years of Kane Villarreal’s life built an unconditional love for his family, the oldest of seven said. He still maintains friendships with people from his youth to which he can relate.

“I grew up, and I’ve seen a different side of life, compared to my younger siblings,” the younger Villarreal said. “I think it made me a better person because maybe it humbled me.”

Then, when an injury sent Lupe Villarreal’s second-youngest child to the hospital, he said that moment was a miracle that redirected his family.

A dresser fell on the boy, who was then 2 years old, causing hemorrhaging in his brain.

The family flew from Victoria to San Antonio for an emergency surgery, and that moment taught Kane Villarreal and his siblings to be strong.

“(My dad) just had to be there and stay strong,” the younger Villarreal said. “It was hard because of the fact that I couldn’t do anything about it. It’s just like a terror that you can’t escape until you hear the news.”

Within two or three days, Lupe Villarreal’s injured son was back to the normal kid he had been before the injury.

These moments, the family said, were cause for Villarreal to change his life around and be reintroduced to faith.

The family has attended Riverside Church for about four years.

“They’re always here and so consistent,” said Pastor Caleb “CJ” Rivera. “It’s always hard to find people to sit in the front row, and they always fill it up.”

Villarreal’s connection to God is a characteristic the father said he shares by example, rather than forcing it on his kids.

“They have so much momentum with their family right now,” said Pastor Robert “Bobby” Rivera. “Being pliable, being humble, being meek, I really think that positions a man’s life.”

Now, a common day for Lupe Villarreal begins at 2:30 a.m. for prayer with his wife, followed by a workout and then off to his job driving trucks for the oilfield.

Every morning at 7 a.m., he and his family then video chat for a prayer between all nine members of the family during the father’s 14-hour shift.

Villarreal and his wife also run Grace Academy, 102-2 Jason St., a Christian school in Victoria for kindergarten through eighth grade. The school is about two years old.

The couple also has supported their son, Kane Villarreal, to become an electrician in Austin, but they also let him come back to Victoria during the pandemic.

Looking toward the future, the younger Villarreal said he would like to start his own family one day, too.

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Geoff Sloan reports on business and breaking news in the Crossroads region. He received his Bachelor's in international relations with minors in journalism and French from Texas State University. Reach him at gsloan@vicad.com or @GeoffroSloan on Twitter.