Excerpted obituary-El Paso Times (TX) - Saturday, July 7, 2001
Friends and loved ones said goodbye Friday to a vibrant El Paso businessman and politician who loved and lived life with passion.
More than 600 people attended the funeral Mass for Patrick "Pat" Francis O'Rourke at 1 p.m. Friday at St. Patrick Cathedral.
O'Rourke, 58, was killed Tuesday when he was struck from behind by a car while riding his recumbent bicycle near Artcraft Road and Westside Drive.
"He died young, but he lived life to the fullest," said O'Rourke's son, Robert "Beto" O'Rourke during his eulogy. "He found a real joy in living."
O'Rourke was a county commissioner from 1978-82 and was county judge from 1982-86. His last attempt at politics was in 1998, when he ran as the Republican candidate for county judge and lost to current County Judge Dolores Briones.
Despite switching parties from Democrat to Republican in the late 1980s, a move that can ruin some politicians, O'Rourke was respected by people in both parties.
"He was always very nice to me," said Enriqueta "Queta" Fierro, El Paso Democratic Party chairwoman, who met O'Rourke in the late 1970s. "He was his own man with a strong character. He was a doer, with good ideas. Not everything worked, but all in all he loved El Paso, and that's what made him strong."
O'Rourke's friends U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, and Texas Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, attended the funeral.
"I think it says a lot about the political community," Briones said. "When it comes to people's lives and what they have tried to do to benefit the community, it is not forgotten or diminished, because there were a lot of Democrats and Republicans."
County Commissioner Dan Haggerty said the people at the funeral could be described only as friends.
"It wasn't about Democrats or Republicans," he said. "All of those people in that Cathedral were all individual people that he loved and knew as friends."
Morris Brown of Dimensions Architects said he never stopped respecting and loving O'Rourke, despite being recently criticized by O'Rourke in his weekly online column for traveling to Mexico with three elected public officials.
"Pat was always very intense in the politics of El Paso," he said. "When I was running for county commissioner, I sought his advice. I met with him at Cincinnati Bar and Grill, where he loved to eat his cheese sandwiches and talk politics."
Monsignor Francis J. Smith, who conducted the funeral Mass, said he remembers how O'Rourke urged him to take up cycling after O'Rourke returned from a cross-country trip of the United States last summer.
"He was a fantastic man. He was an enjoyable person to be with," he said. "He was serious but lighthearted. His life was a life of giving."
Family members said he was their leader.
"Pat O'Rourke is dead, but he's still alive in me, Charlotte and Erin," said Beto O'Rourke, referring to his two younger sisters. "My dad meant a lot to me. He was an instrumental part in everything I did."
Beto O'Rourke, who maintains stantonstreet.com, an El Paso online magazine, said he started the magazine with the help and advice of his father.
"I'm really going to miss that. I'm really going to miss that force," he said. "He was really powerful. Even with his smile he was powerful."
Beto O'Rourke said his father always found joy in life -- whether he was in a crowd of people, in a one-on-one situation or even alone.
"If I could take one lesson from my dad, that would be it," he said. "I'm proud to be his son. I loved him very much."
Jack Maxon, a longtime friend and fellow cyclist, said O'Rourke dearly loved his children and wife, Melissa, of 30 years. And he loved El Paso.
"I was riding bikes with him last week, and he turned to me and said, 'Jack, we ought to be the Hong Kong of the border,' " Maxon said. "Pat was one of the shapers and movers of El Paso. He was memorable."
O'Rourke was buried at Memory Gardens of the Valley in Santa Teresa, and a wake followed at Cincinnati Bar and Grill, a favorite spot for the Irish descendant.
"More today (Friday) I found out a lot about O'Rourke than I have ever known," Commissioner Haggerty said. "El Paso has lost another pillar of the community, and when you lose a pillar, the structure can sometimes collapse. He will be sorely missed."
Some chapters in Pat O'Rourke's public life:
April 1972: Lost a race for a seat on the El Paso Community College Board of Trustees.
April 1976: Lost another race for a seat on the El Paso Community College Board of Trustees.
March 1978: Gathered friends to jog along Trans Mountain Road, an idea that evolved into the annual Trans Mountain 20-kilometer challenge.
November 1978-1982: Served as El Paso County commissioner.
November 1982-1986: Served as El Paso County judge. O'Rourke and El Paso Mayor Jonathan Rogers worked to consolidate some of the governments' services to try to save taxpayer money. O'Rourke did not seek re-election.
February 1983: Sheriff's deputies installing a two-way radio in O'Rourke's vehicle discover a tied condom containing an off-white powder they believed to be either cocaine or heroin. A sheriff's captain ordered the substance destroyed. The incident did not come to light until months later. In October 1983, the captain was indicted by a grand jury on charges of official misconduct and tampering with evidence. O'Rourke and the sheriff's captain said they believed the drugs had been put into O'Rourke's vehicle by one of O'Rourke's political enemies.
October 1983-November 1986: Served on the Texas Jails Standards Commission.
June 1986: After more than 400 residents of Socorro petitioned 120th District Judge Brunson Moore for a mayor so that Socorro could qualify for grant money, Moore ordered O'Rourke to temporarily take the job. "I've already been to Socorro this morning on my bike," O'Rourke joked to the Times. "I'm saving the city money because it gets great gas mileage."
1987: Was at the center of a controversy in the Lower Valley Water District because his consulting contract called for him to make $202,500 if voters in the district approved a $22.5 million bond issue. The bond issue was rejected.
1988: Although a Republican, O'Rourke served as state co-chairman for Jesse Jackson during Jackson's bid in the Democratic presidential primary. "I like the guy. He's entertaining, and he has some magic in him," O'Rourke explained a few years later. "Jesse brought more people into the voting booth, and I don't care who you are -- the more people that vote, the better off this country is."
1992: Campaigned to become the Republican nominee in the U.S. congressional race. Made it to the primary runoff but then lost to Chip Taberski in April 1992.
1996: Arrested and charged with DWI after crashing his car on Schuster at Stanton Street. Lost a race for county tax assessor-collector.
1998: Republican candidate for county judge. Lost to Democrat Dolores Briones.
Author: Laura Cruz
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