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In 1960—the fresh air, the densely populated cities, and the smell of success—Heriberto Villarreal moved to Wisconsin from Mexico. He had nothing when he arrived, except motivation for success.
He was the hardest working man I have ever met. But he never forgot his family. He was a father, a husband, and a grandpa. But most of all…he was my best friend.
My grandpa worked at Mercury Marine to come home to the same meal of beans and tortillas. With his motivation for success, he wanted more, a better life for himself and his family.
Like his father, he got into the grocery business for the people, like him, who were coming to Milwaukee from Mexico and missed home.
My grandpa saw an immense opportunity in this business. He knew he could start a grocery store with Hispanic goods, more authentic than the others. And they started Supermercado El Rey.
The business sent a shock wave through Wisconsin, gaining more and more popularity and soon enough, became the biggest Hispanic grocery store in southeast Wisconsin.
Is this your typical “rags to riches” story? Maybe. But to me, it’s so much more. His thirst for success and how he achieved his success showed me that your future is made by no one but yourself. Not only because of his success, but the role that he played in everyone’s life—in my life.
The memories I have with him are scarce but engraved into my mind. I cherish every moment I had with him.
In Feburary 2006, Beto was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Everyday I watched as his life slowly deteriorated in front of me, until the point where he could no longer speak, move, or even eat on his own.
On November 6, 2011, Herbert Villarreal passed away, moving to a place where he could no longer suffer. The amount of people affected by his death astounded me, causing so many people to reminisce on the times they had with him. It showed me the impact he had on so many lives.
I know in my heart, he is watching over me somewhere--guiding me. I will make you proud, I promise.
Thank you Papa.