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César Augusto Salas

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César Augusto Salas April 19, 1922 - October 17, 2011 César Augusto Salas, Chief Warrant Officer 4 (Retired), was born April 19, 1922, in the Spanish colonial city of Granada, Nicaragua. He was the eighth of 13 children born to Ramón and Carmen Salas, and one of only five who lived to adulthood. He died on October 17, 2011, in Austin, Texas, surrounded by the love of his family members and their Christian faith, which is his legacy. César's father was a master saddle maker, and he served at the behest of the country's president and his military cavalry. As a result, the Salas family moved to Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, when César was eight months old. He lived in Managua through secondary school, and he professed his faith as a Christian at an early age. He grew academically as a student at the private Christian school Colegio Bautista, and he received his bachelor's diploma in Science and Letters in 1943. He then traveled to the United States and began his Texas experience as a student in 1944 at The University of Texas at Austin. He took up residence at the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary while attending The University. Although his family provided financial support for school, César worked as a server at the Scottish Rite Dormitory (SRD), the all-girls dorm near the seminary. Many young American men were involved in World War II, and the 15-1 female-to-male ratio at The University was favorable to César, as an international male student. Despite his limited English language proficiency, his distinct latin charm and culture appeared exotic to the coeds. He was known as "Nick" by the girls at SRD, because he hailed from Nicaragua. However, one Sunday afternoon César attended a luncheon for college students at Emmanuel Methodist Church, located just east of downtown. There, he was introduced to Rebecca Ruiz, a daughter to one of the founding families of the church. He was captivated by her beauty, and his love for her lasted the rest of his life. In order to marry Rebecca, César needed to make money. He took on multiple jobs as a waiter at the Spanish Village and Caruso's Italian restaurants, located in Austin's downtown. However, the means of a waiter working for tips was not sufficient. He consulted his parents about his love for Rebecca, and about his plan to drop out of school, travel to New York City, and seek work there. César's father was not supportive of his direction, accusing him of trying to be a Don Juan in America, when his purpose in Texas was for schooling. He gave César the option to complete his education or come home to Central America. As a result, César began pursuing his own life, against his father's wishes, but confident that God had been with him thus far, and that He would continue being there despite César's uncertainty about the future. César very quickly found himself without family financial support, residing and working as a waiter at the YMCA in New York City, but now he was in violation of his student visa. Forty-eight days after he left The University of Texas, he received a letter advising him that he was subject to deportation as an undesirable alien, never able to return to the U.S. However, the letter also stated that he could avoid deportation if he rendered his services with the U.S. military before July 8, 1946. He inquired as best he could with the draft board about his options, and agreed to report back for enlistment before the deadline. He then took the letter to the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington, D.C., for counsel. There he was advised that if he married a U.S. citizen, then he could avoid serving in the U.S. armed services and still remain in the U.S. For César, this was an affirmation to marry Rebecca sooner rather than later in order to avoid his deportation and the family embarrassment back home. He called for Rebecca to come quickly to New York so they could marry and live there. Rebecca came willingly, accompanied by her oldest brother and his sister-in-law, and Rebecca's mother who was convinced that the hurried nature of the marriage was not God's plan. A frantic rush to marry in New York City in order to have a weekend honeymoon failed when they arrived to find the courthouse closed at noon on Saturdays. Another frantic rush to New Jersey, where the courthouse closed at 3:00 PM, failed when they also arrived there too late. Eventually, the couple was able to find a church pastor to marry them on Sunday, July 7, 1946. The first order of business on July 8 for the new husband was to report to the draft board with his marriage certificate to explain his change of plans. His lack of English skills resulted in great confusion, and before leaving the building, he found himself in line for a physical exam, and then standing with other men all raising their right hands and swearing an oath that he did not fully understand until later. Then he heard the words he never forgot: "Congratulations. You're in the Army now." Within less than 24 hours, César bid his new bride farewell. She returned to her parent's home in Austin, Texas, while her husband reported for duty at Fort Dix, NJ, and from there he was quickly shipped off to Tokyo, Japan. He never held ill feelings toward the misunderstanding that landed him in the military. His eternal perspective was that God's hand was involved in human circumstances, and César considered it all part of God's plan and blessing for his life on earth. César served in the U.S. Army for nearly 30 years, and received numerous medals and commendations for his leadership. A highlight of César's military service was during the Cold War era, when he was stationed for an extended period in Austin, charged with defending the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command stationed at Bergstrom Air Force Base, which now is the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. César served on the first team to operate the Army's air defense base and Nike Missile site, located far outside the capital city, but today sits within the campus of St. Stephen's Episcopal School in west Austin. At the beginning of that period in Austin, César and Rebecca purchased their first home at 4104 Rosedale Avenue. However, as the closing date approached, César discovered a circulating petition expressing concern and opposition to the latin family moving into the neighborhood. In response, he dressed in his military uniform, walked a complete circle of the avenue, going door to door introducing himself with a charisma that soothed even the roughest personality. During his walk he discovered the family that initiated the petition. Within a very brief period of interaction, the family confessed their mistake and prejudice, and they became great neighbors and family friends to César and Rebecca, and to their children and grandchildren who eventually lived in the home. César's service in the military resulted in several tours of duty in the U.S. and to the Philippine Islands, Japan, Okinawa, and Taiwan. However, Austin was always a home base for him and his family. Eventually, he concluded his long military career as an officer with a formal retirement on December 31, 1975, at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. Retiring from his many years in the military opened a new chapter for César's life. He completed his college education at the age of 60, graduating in 1982 from The University of Texas at El Paso with a Bachelor of Science in Education degree. His desire was to apply his teaching and Spanish language skills to public education as a bi-lingual instructor. However, during his required period of student teaching, César discovered that the obedience and respect he received from elementary children was inconsistent with what he had come to expect from military service, despite his efforts to charm the little ones; so he focused his love for kids on his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He also began to invest his extra time into the sport of golf. His new hobby became a passion over the years, and he eventually landed his first hole in one in 1987. César loved the beauty of the many courses he played in the West Texas desert, the Texas Hill Country, and in Maryland. He preferred walking the 18 holes, and his step was usually more celebratory on the back nine, which indicated his confidence in a strong finish. Later in life, even tethered to an oxygen tank, César never lost his love for the sport. He also never lost a single round to his sons, who he would say spent more time in the woods hunting for balls than on the fairways hitting them. As his grandchildren grew up, César also enjoyed giving them tips on the green. Following a long period of retirement in El Paso, César and Rebecca returned to Austin in 1997 to be closer to family. The couple became members of First Evangelical Free Church (FEFC), and God used them both as Christian examples of love, hospitality, joy and humility through their involvement in Nueva Vida, the Spanish speaking ministry of FEFC. The Salas home was always a gathering place for church functions and meals. It was also the sweet gathering place for the family to share holidays, television broadcasts of golf or football, and César's favorite card game of Blitz. Their home also served regularly as a hosting site for visiting missionaries. In 2007, César was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. Although the disease would eventually slow him down, he never let it stop him from attending church worship services or family gatherings until the final week of his life. César's ability to rise to the occasion eliminated people's concern for him so he could express his concern and love for them. He never tired from investing himself into the spiritual growth of others, and his love for the Lord was contagious. He always was a great source for laughter, for prayer and for a blessing on those who needed it most. César was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 60 years Rebecca Ruiz Salas; his father Ramón Salas and paternal grandparents Juan Salas and Maria de Salas Martinez, both of Spanish decent; his mother Carmen Maria de Salas Morales and maternal grandparents Rafael Morales, of French decent, and Mercedes de Morales Romero of Nicaragua; his siblings José Salas, Serafina Watkins and her husband Dallas Watkins, and Noé Salas; his mother- and father-in-law Carlos L. Ruiz and Gonzala Ruiz of Austin, TX; his wife's siblings Elias Ruiz, Joel Ruiz, Esther Ruiz Ancira and her husband José, and Ezequiel Ruiz and his wife Beverly. He is survived by his older brother Ramón Salas, his brothers- and sisters-in-law Daniel Ruiz and his wife Antonia, David Ruiz and his wife Alma, Eva Hutchens, and Minerva vda de Salas. His surviving children include Carmen Salas Tyler and her husband Richard, César Augusto Salas, Jr., and his wife Shelley, Richard Michael Salas and his wife Leslie, and Vincent Joel Salas and his wife Bridget. His surviving grandchildren include Richard Madison Tyler, Caitlin Carmen Harris and her husband Jesse Harris, Marielle Mercedes Tyler, Nikolette Elizabeth Holden and her husband Allen Holden, César Augusto Salas, III, Eileen Rebecca Salas, Anne Kristine Salas, Michael Vincent Salas, Grace Elizabeth Salas, and Matthew Molloy Salas. His surviving great grandchildren are Amanda Elizabeth Holden and Aidan Nathaniel Holden. In 2006, César recorded a recollection of his life as part of an oral history project conducted by StoryCorps. His story is archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C., allowing César's voice to live on as a part of American history. As an individual, he will always be remembered as a man of God who loved his wife and his family. César's family expresses their sincerest appreciation for the excellent care he received for many years from William Deaton, M.D., Michael Pellegrini, M.D., and most recently from Buckner Hospice and their loving nurses Nancy Butler and Linda Galloway. Family and friends are invited to a visitation on Friday, October 21, 2011, from six o'clock until eight o'clock in the evening at Cook-Walden Funeral Home, 6100 N. Lamar Blvd. A funeral service will begin at two o'clock on Saturday, October 22, 2011, at First Evangelical Free Church of Austin, 4220 Monterey Oaks Blvd., followed by a military graveside service and interment at Austin Memorial Park. Memorial contributions may be made to CAM International, 8625 La Prada Drive, Dallas, TX 75228, for its ongoing efforts of making disciples of Jesus Christ among Spanish-speakers globally. Please indicate, "In memory of César A. Salas / Account# 060140" in the memo line. You may also submit contribution online at caminternational.org. Tributes may be made at www.cookwaldenfuneralhome.com

Cook Walden - Funerals & Cremations

Published in Austin American-Statesman on Oct. 21, 2011
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