Joel Jaime Saenz, Age 64 passed away peacefully in the comfort of his home in Rio Grande City surrounded by loved ones on the morning of June 13th 2018. Born in RGC on February 27th 1954 to Lydia Zulema Saenz and the late Armando Mauro Saenz, he was a Veteran of 22 years.
Graduating from RGC High School in 1972, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in San Antonio, Texas on June 25, 1974. A chronological history of his Naval assignments include:
Recruit Training, Great Lakes, IL; Hospital Corps School, San Diego, CA; U.S. Naval Hospital, Corpus Christi, TX; Naval Regional Medical Center, Subic Bay, Philippines; Branch Medical Clinic, Moffet Field, CA; Advanced Hospital Corps School, San Diego, CA; USS BELLEAU WOOD (LHA-3), San Diego, CA; Branch Medical Clinic, New Orleans, LA; Branch Medical Annex, Kami Seya, Japan; Branch Medical Clinic, Atsugi, Japan.
He met his wife Mary Elizabeth Gonzalez in 1975 in Corpus Christi, and they married on April 17th 1976. In 1980 his daughter Lisa Marie was born in Subic Bay, Philippines. He achieved the rank of Chief Petty Officer aboard the USS BELLEAU WOOD (LHA-3) and in 1985 his son Joel “J” Jr was born in Bremerton, Washington.
He earned numerous medals and awards while in service, and retired from the U.S. Navy on June 23rd 1995 before returning to his hometown. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Health Science from The George Washington University on January 30th 1997. He then worked at the Border Region MHMR from 1997-2003, Hilliard Disability Consultants from 2003-2013, Rio Grande City Consolidated Independent School District from 2013-2017, and the Starr County Veteran Service Office in 2017.
In 2011 he was appointed to fill an unexpired term on the Board of Directors for the Starr County Hospital District representing Precinct 4 where he worked with the best interests of the people at heart. He was later elected to full terms from 2012-2016, and ran a successful campaign for re-election in 2016-present.
Joel Saenz was an avid hunter and fisherman. He enjoyed the quiet and tranquility of an early morning hunt at his ranch, or the serenity of a sunset on the lake with a rod in his hand and a fish on the line. He was a good handyman and hard worker, often doing the work himself to repair and maintain appliances, equipment, housing, and vehicles. He loved exchanging jokes and stories over the grill or fire pit with friends and family, and would never shy from karaoke. He was kind, respectful, and indiscriminate to all, always thinking of others before himself. A loving husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, cousin, and friend, his compassionate influence was felt far and wide.
We all have our idea of how the hereafter could be, and I like to imagine that this world needs guardian angels and one of the first tasks of the dearly departed is learning to become a guiding spirit. Their first mission might be to help heal and mend the cracks and holes in the broken hearts left behind upon their passing, and to build them up stronger than before. I can hear the instructor explaining to him “No Joel, you can’t just focus on the pretty ones.” I know he will excel at this as he did in life. His soul will be a guiding light in the hearts of those he held dear, a voice of reason in times of calamity, a warm reassurance in times of tragedy, and an inspiration in times of doubt. The warmth of his spirit will spread through us with every heartfelt laugh, each kind gesture, every humble deference, each word of support, and through every tear, drop of sweat, and drop of blood spent in the effort to improve the state of our world as he has done.
Joel Jaime Saenz is survived by his loving wife of 42 years Mary E Saenz, and their two children Lisa Velazquez (Amos), and Joel Saenz Jr, his grandchildren Sabrina Hernandez, Anel Velazquez, Pedro Velazquez, Joel Velazquez, his brothers and sisters, Armando Saenz Jr, Ruben Saenz (Ana), Sylvia Martinez (†Fred), Sonia Brown (Oscar), Selenia Williamson (†Geroge), Monica Salinas (Estevan), and his nieces, nephews, and cousins. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Rodriguez Funeral Home, 3230 Old Escobares Hwy 83, Roma TX, 78584. Viewing services will be held June 14 9am – 9pm with rosary at 7pm, and church services following on June 15 10am at the Immaculate Conception Church, 101 East Canales Bros Street, Rio Grande City, TX 78582, followed by burial at Rio Grande City County Cemetery, Rio Grande City, TX 78582.