Each January, Alice's Tejano ROOTS organization holds its annual Noche de Fiesta. It is this time more than any other I fondly remember my friend and a man whom I considered my brother, Javier "JV" Villanueva - one of the Tejano music genre's brightest stars.
JV put a spark back in the Tejano music industry. His leadership along with hard work from him and countless others ensures the legacy of Tejano music's pioneers will never be lost.
JV had huge plans for the ROOTS museum and the celebration of that rich culture within our community.
It is so sad his health took a toll on his body, limiting what time he could give before finally claiming his soul, his work here not yet complete.
Now others are struggling to keep his legacy alive. Alice has a jewel in being Texas' birthplace of Tejano music, officially proclaimed so by Gov. Rick Perry in 2001.
Too many, though, have not embraced the tremendous heritage that is our Tejano music history. Many other communities are envious of our un-mined treasure. One day I hope more Aliceans will fully grasp the value of what we have, a legacy JV worked so hard to keep alive.
I met JV many years ago when former Alice mayor Rito Silva and I were exploring an idea of starting a Tejano music museum.
We began working on the project but needed someone to help us get it off the ground. Rito suggested I talk to a man named JV who worked for the radio station.
I met JV and admitted to him I didn't know much about Tejano music but realized it had a rich history and had so many past stars who were being forgotten.
He amazed me as he just started talking, telling me stories of so many people, many of whom I had never heard.
His eyes lit with fire; I knew at that moment we had found the spark we needed to get the museum off the ground. JV, Rito and I became inseparable. "The three amigos," spent hours together talking about what we wanted to build. We assembled a board that included us three, Joe Lozano, Juan Sifiuentes Jr., Orlando Chapa and Serapio Serna. The name Tejano ROOTS (Remembering Our Own Tejano Stars, offered by Chapa) was selected and the rest is part of Alice's history.
Over the years there were times JV and I would laugh together and there were times we cried together. JV was truly my "compadre." At some point he adopted me, and would tell people we were brothers - "Don't we look alike," he would ask. I was proud of this and told him as much.
He simply laughed suggesting every family needed at least one gringo.
I paid a visit to him several months before he died and prior to a serious illness of my own. We had a great time together, remembering all that we had been through together.
While he was very weak and could barely see, the kindling fire remained in his eyes.
The last time I saw him was days before his passing. We both were receiving dialysis at the same facility. He was having blood pressure issues, thus it was decided he should go to the hospital.
I told him he would be fine, not to worry. He was afraid, I think he knew he was not going to make it.
As he was being taken from the center he stopped the medics for a moment so he could say goodbye to me. "I love you my brother. Tell my wife I love her," he said.
It was just a few days later he was gone. His son, Javier Antoine Villanueva, told me one of his dad's favorite Tejano songs was on the radio as he took his last breath. His final words to his family were, "I'm ready."
Not many people touch the lives of so many with such special magic as did JV. For those he cared for, his loyalty ran deep. He would do anything to help them. I know I am a better person today because I knew this man.
His wife Ester and family miss him terribly. I pray they are comforted in knowing he is at peace now. And it is wonderful knowing Antoine comes back to Alice each year to present the Tejano ROOTS award named in his dad's honor.
There will never be another like JV. He had so much heart, gave so many gifts to our community. We will never be quite the same without our very own, "Dean of Tejano." Descansar bien mi querido amigo, hasta que nos volvamos a encontrar mi amado hermano.
Tony Morris is co-publisher of alice24-7. You may reach him by Email at email@example.com or find him on Facebook. Comments and column suggestions are welcomed and encouraged.