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Leon Lara Eguia

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Leon Lara Eguia Veteran

Birth
Houston, Harris County, Texas, USA
Death
4 May 2008 (aged 86)
Houston, Harris County, Texas, USA
Burial
Houston, Harris County, Texas, USA Add to Map
Plot
Section S1, Site 764
Memorial ID
View Source
Leon Eguia, one of the first Hispanics to become firefighters in the Houston Fire Department and a former president of LULAC Council No. 60, died Sunday in a Houston hospital. He was 86.

Eguia's interest in the League of United Latin American Citizens developed after he encountered prejudice upon returning to Texas after serving as a paratrooper in World War II.

He recounted that, while visiting his grandmother in Lockhart, he walked into a drug store in his Army uniform but was told by a clerk: "We don't serve Mexicans here."

This differed from Eguia's experiences in the Army, he said in an oral history interview at the University of Texas at Austin.

In the Army, he said, he never experienced discrimination. "It's all about real comradeship," Eguia said. "You look out for each other and at the same time have some fun."

Although he fought in the Battle of the Bulge with the 82nd Airborne Division in the bitter winter of 1944, Eguia emerged unscathed.

"We were baptized into battle on Christmas Eve 1944," he said.

After the war, he got a job in a clothing store in Corpus Christi and eventually returned to Houston, where in 1957 he was among the first Hispanic firefighters hired by the HFD.

For part of his 20 years with the department, Eguia also worked in alterations in clothing departments at Foley's and Montgomery Ward stores, said his son, Edward Eguia.

In 1953-54, Eguia served as president of LULAC Council 60. He also was a charter member of Knights of Columbus Council 802 at St. Patrick Catholic Church and a former president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a charitable organization, at the church.

Leon Lara Eguia was born in Houston on Nov. 13, 1921, the son of Narciso C. Eguia and Maria Lara Eguia. He recalled in the oral history interview that, during the Great Depression in the early 1930s, he and his brother shined shoes on Saturdays to help with family expenses. His mother died when he was 15, and his father never remarried.

Although his father wanted him to quit school and find a full-time job, Eguia said he stayed in school and graduated in 1938 from the old Sam Houston High School. He said he did work after school at Stein's clothing store downtown, earning $1 a day selling suits and learning to make alterations.

"He wanted to be an attorney," said his son, Edward Eguia. "He was very intelligent and was the rock of the family, straightforward and strong."

Eguia also is survived by his wife of almost 60 years, Antonia Ramirez Eguia of Houston; daughters Gloria Duran and Alice Pina, both of Houston; another son, Leon Eguia Jr. of Scottsdale, Ariz.; sisters Tille Gonzales and Ida Zermeno; and his brother, Ernest Eguia, all of Houston.

Visitation will be 6 to 8 p.m. today at Heights Funeral Home, 1317 Heights Blvd. The rosary will be recited at 7 p.m.

The Mass of Christian burial will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Patrick Catholic Church, 4918 Cochran. Burial will be in Houston National Cemetery.

Leon Eguia, one of the first Hispanics to become firefighters in the Houston Fire Department and a former president of LULAC Council No. 60, died Sunday in a Houston hospital. He was 86.

Eguia's interest in the League of United Latin American Citizens developed after he encountered prejudice upon returning to Texas after serving as a paratrooper in World War II.

He recounted that, while visiting his grandmother in Lockhart, he walked into a drug store in his Army uniform but was told by a clerk: "We don't serve Mexicans here."

This differed from Eguia's experiences in the Army, he said in an oral history interview at the University of Texas at Austin.

In the Army, he said, he never experienced discrimination. "It's all about real comradeship," Eguia said. "You look out for each other and at the same time have some fun."

Although he fought in the Battle of the Bulge with the 82nd Airborne Division in the bitter winter of 1944, Eguia emerged unscathed.

"We were baptized into battle on Christmas Eve 1944," he said.

After the war, he got a job in a clothing store in Corpus Christi and eventually returned to Houston, where in 1957 he was among the first Hispanic firefighters hired by the HFD.

For part of his 20 years with the department, Eguia also worked in alterations in clothing departments at Foley's and Montgomery Ward stores, said his son, Edward Eguia.

In 1953-54, Eguia served as president of LULAC Council 60. He also was a charter member of Knights of Columbus Council 802 at St. Patrick Catholic Church and a former president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a charitable organization, at the church.

Leon Lara Eguia was born in Houston on Nov. 13, 1921, the son of Narciso C. Eguia and Maria Lara Eguia. He recalled in the oral history interview that, during the Great Depression in the early 1930s, he and his brother shined shoes on Saturdays to help with family expenses. His mother died when he was 15, and his father never remarried.

Although his father wanted him to quit school and find a full-time job, Eguia said he stayed in school and graduated in 1938 from the old Sam Houston High School. He said he did work after school at Stein's clothing store downtown, earning $1 a day selling suits and learning to make alterations.

"He wanted to be an attorney," said his son, Edward Eguia. "He was very intelligent and was the rock of the family, straightforward and strong."

Eguia also is survived by his wife of almost 60 years, Antonia Ramirez Eguia of Houston; daughters Gloria Duran and Alice Pina, both of Houston; another son, Leon Eguia Jr. of Scottsdale, Ariz.; sisters Tille Gonzales and Ida Zermeno; and his brother, Ernest Eguia, all of Houston.

Visitation will be 6 to 8 p.m. today at Heights Funeral Home, 1317 Heights Blvd. The rosary will be recited at 7 p.m.

The Mass of Christian burial will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Patrick Catholic Church, 4918 Cochran. Burial will be in Houston National Cemetery.



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