PHOTO by BRAD ROLLINS
Their dad died in December. Their mother followed in January. Now the Martinez girls, Angela, 11, and Veronica, 8, are being cared for by their aunt, Fidela Lopez. A Buda resident who heard about their plight is organizing a community effort to repair the foundation and roof and replace the plumbing in the family’s home on Linda Drive.
by BRAD ROLLINS
As their health deteriorated, so did Roy Martinez’s and Mary Torres’ small frame house on Linda Drive.
In June 2007, doctors amputated one of Torres’ legs as her diabetes became critical. Martinez was her caretaker but unbeknown to even his family, he was being treated for liver disease in San Antonio. Somewhere along the way, the natural gas line started leaking where it entered the house. In December, he went to the emergency room, was admitted to intensive care and died before the weekend was over, on Dec.16. The foundation sagged more and more giving the living room a slight tilt; the roof leaked. In January, Torres went back to the hospital and they took another toe, and finally the other leg. She died on Jan. 31.
In little more than a month, 11-year-old Angela Martinez and 8-year-old Veronica Martinez were orphans. And the house was unsafe and they couldn’t return to the neighborhood where the were raised, where there father had said he would build them a tree house but died before he could make good on the promise.
“When my sister went into the hospital, she told me, ‘I’m going to die. I know I’m going to die.’ and that if something should happen to her, that she wanted me to take care of her girls,'” Fidela Lopez said of her nieces. “I said, ‘Of course I will’ and we typed a letter and signed it and notarized it but I thought, ‘She’s not going to die.'”
Not long after the conversation, she returned home from the hospital late one night, went to her job as a janitor for Hays County the next day. A nurse called that afternoon and said they had tried to save her but she went quickly.
“It has been a lot but I have to do it and want to do it. We don’t want the state to come in and take them. I would do anything for them to be happy,” said Lopez, a lifelong San Marcos resident whose own three children are adults.
Within days, the Angela and Veronica were asking to go back to their old house but it is not inhabitable and there were other things to be done. Angela was born without a kidney and in the shuffle between her parents’ hospital rooms and funeral services, she had missed doctor’s appointments and treatments. Living at Lopez and her husband’s home, they would return on the weekends to Linda Drive. They got the gas turned off after discovering the leak but now the hot water heater and stove don’t work. And they painted the bedrooms even as the roof and foundation continue to fail.
“Then one day the phone rang,” Lopez begins.
On the other end, Omarr Guerrero, a Buda resident and San Marcos native, told her about a challenge issued by his pastor at Generations Church in Buda. Invoking the parable of the talents as told in the gospel of Matthew, the pastor called for volunteers and gave from the congregation and gave those who responded $100. According to the illustrative story, a man is about to go on a trip so he gives each of his three servants different amounts of money, or talents. Two of the servants double their money but the last buries the money he was given in a hole for safekeeping.
“He challenged us to be good and faithful servants and do something for those who are in need,” Guerrero said.
Over lunch, he was telling his parents, Homer Guerrero, who owns an insurance company, and his mother, who has been the Travis Elementary School principal for 24 years. Told about the Martinez children and their rough row of late, Guerrero dived headlong into organizing a community effort to renovate the Martinez children’s home. Already Terry Simms’ Five Star Roofing in Austin has said it will replace the roof at no charge. But first, the foundation must be stabilized. Plumbing and natural gas facilities need to be replaced as well to bring the home up to code and Guerrero hopes the community will share in the challenge.
“It’s just a ground level-up effort. We just want to do what we can to help our neighbors,” Guerrero said.
To contribute time, materials or money, contact Guerrero by phone at (512) 627-4425 or by e-mail at Omarr_Guerrero@countrywide.com. Organizers have launched a Web site at http://www.bigtexashugs.com.Email | Print