Modesto A. Gomez
Modesto Gomez was born in 1895 in El Paso,Tx when the population of the city was about 10,000. His mother, Sebastiana Velarde, born on a ranch where San Jacinto Plaza now stands, served the community as a volunteer midwife. In her later years, she established a nursery/florist business on Alameda and concepcion. Modesto's father, Ramon Gomez Sr., a migrant from Spain, came to El Paso via Cuba and Juarez. At the turn of the century, he established a mercantile business and tavern on Stanton and Seventh. This building and business remained in the family for 85 years. Modesto received the majority of his education in El Paso, attending Aoy Grammar School, the Sisters of Merced Catholic School, and El Paso Military Institute. Later, he attended St. Edward's University in Austin.
Modesto joined the US Army in 1917 and served with the 90th Division, 315th Ammunition Train from June 1918, to June 1919. He took part in the St. Mihiel and Meuse Argonne Campaigns in France and continued after the war with the Army of occupation. After returning from overseas, Mr. Gomez continued to serve his military allegiances in a different forum. In 1932 he co-founded Marcos Barmijo VFW Post 2653. He was elected the post's second commander and held every office afterwards. His wife, Maria de Jesus, served as the first head of the post's auxiliary. Modesto was named deputy marshal of the Veteran's Parade several times. In 1949, he was named to the Draft Board #40 where he served for 20 years. During his tenure on the draft board, he received citations from US Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, as well as President Rene Mascarenas Miranda of Mexico.
Modesto was a businessman and entrepreneur. After returning from military service, he joined F.S. Ainsa Wholesale as a salesman. In 1929, he and two associates formed the Charles Pomeroy Co., as a wholesale mercantile business. In 1935, he bought out his partners and changed the name to M.A. Gomez Wholesale Grocery. He operated it alone until his son and son-in-law joined as partners. In explaining the relationship between his business philosophy and his charitable nature, Modesto one stated, "I am a salesman. I sell groceries. I have to be nice to people so they will buy from me." People liked him and bought from him for over 53 years. In 1982, at the age of 86, Modesto "officially" retired, closing the business and selling the hundred-year-old building.
As stated earlier, Modesto served El Paso in many charitable arenas. He served on the Airport Board, City Pension Board, City Charter Board, the local Rescue Mission Board, the El Paso Boys Baseball Commissioners' Board and the Board of Goodwill Industries. Appointed by President Roosevelt to serve on the local Rationing Board during World War II, he served until the war ended. As an original member of the El Paso Housing Authority Board, Modesto was intrumental in convincing federal and local governments of the urgent need for federal housing in our community. Modesto was an active member of the Downtown Lions Club, where for 50 years, he maintained a perfect attendance record. He also participated consistently in the annual Christmas canned foods drive.
Modesto believed in education. In addition to being instrumental in instituting the ROTC Program at Bowie, he was a strong partisan of Bowie athletic teams, usually accompanying them on trips. He formed the "Tata" Club ("Tata" meaning Dad) made up of Bowie dads for the purpose of helping students find jobs. He collaborated with Herman Rosch at Austin High and Irvin Schwartz at El Paso High to form their own Dads' Clubs. Modesto hired many of these students to help them continue their education. He assisted many families in South El Paso with their hospital bills and other basic necessities. During the Depression he had an open account with the Three B Store to have a ready supply of shoes for the needy children. Long before the hot lunch program was implemented, Mr. Gomez provided food for hot lunches at Aoy School. Years later, he was honored by Aoy Elementary and Bowie High Schools on their 100th and 50th anniversaries for these early contributions.
Modesto emphasized Mexican-Americans standing up for their rights as American Citizens. He carried his fighting spirit and intolerance for discrimination throughout his life. As a founder of the League of Latin American Citizens in El Paso in the early 1930s, he joined with other Mexican Americans in putting these beliefs into action. He founded LULAC Council #132 and held every office at the local and national level, including the presidency.
In 1975, the city of El Paso honored Modesto by naming a park for him. Over the years, Modesto has been honored by many other governmental entities, civic organizations and associations for his contributions to his city, state, and country. It is significant to note that Modesto has always served in a position where he could help people. This desire ran very deep in the grain of his personality and beliefs. More cannot be said of any man.