Zapata leaves legacy of selflessness, service
By LPR Staff
After a lifetime spent serving others, Constable Margarito “Junior” Zapata, Jr., found his final reward on Tuesday afternoon after a long battle with ill health. Until his health failed last month, Zapata continued to work tirelessly in his two elected positions, as Precinct 3 Constable since 2004
, and as Prairie Lea ISD Trustee since 1978.
A native son of the Tri-Community area, Zapata, 64, spent most of his life in Caldwell County, with the exception of an enlistment and service in the Marine Corps.
“He was all about serving the community,” said son Margarito “Mickey” Zapata, III on Tuesday evening. “He always taught us that it was easy to complain about things, but instead of complaining, you need to get up and do something about it.”
Do something, he did.
In 2001, Zapata was honored as the longest-serving member of the Prairie Lea ISD School Board. At that time, he had been serving for 23 years – he continued that work until last month, amassing a whopping 37 years as a school board trustee. For more than a decade, he served as school board president.
“Sometimes, it was hard to be his daughter,” said eldest daughter Blanca Tober. “He was out, in the community, doing things for people and so he wasn’t home as much as we wanted him to be sometimes.”
Still, Tober noted, her father’s legacy was wider and more far-reaching than her family could have realized.
“Just the people we’ve talked to in the last couple of days…,” she said. “He touched more people in more ways than we knew, and that really makes up for everything else.”
In addition to PLISD, Zapata served on the Tri-Community Water Supply Corporation board and with the Tri-Community Volunteer Fire Department, for more than 30 years.
Both Zapata and Tober said their father encouraged them to be as good as they could be, and to give back to the community whenever they had the chance. To that end, both are involved with the Tri-Community VFD, as well as helping to coordinate other events throughout Fentress throughout the year.
“He was always out helping people,” Tober said. “And he always wanted us to follow in his footsteps. Sometimes, he was strict, but I think we came out okay.”
In 2004, Zapata finally had the opportunity to chase a lifetime dream of becoming a law enforcement officer. He was elected, in a sweeping victory, as Precinct 3 Constable.
“It was something he always wanted to do, and after his kids were grown, that opportunity just came up to him,” said colleague and friend, Precinct 4 Constable Art Villarreal. “When he got elected, he just jumped in, and wanted to be the best he could be at it.”
Working with Villarreal and the other Constables, Zapata helped to lead the charge in revolutionizing the Constables’ Offices in Caldwell County, including taking steps to increase traffic and highway enforcement, and working to enforce laws on the San Marcos River.
“When he first started, I’d already been doing it, so I kind of showed him the ropes and helped him learn what to do,” Villarreal said. “But it wasn’t too long before I was asking him for advice, and he was telling me what to do.”
Recently, Villarreal noted, he learned that he and Zapata were distant relatives.
“I always thought of him like a big brother to me,” Villarreal said. “And it was only a couple of weeks ago that I learned that we are related through my mother’s side, so that’s just something nice to hang on to.”
Precinct 1 Constable Victor “Smitty” Terrell said on Tuesday evening that he was working with other local law enforcement agencies to ensure that Zapata is buried with law enforcement honors.
He leaves behind his wife of 43 years, Aurora, three children and three grand children, along with a vast community of loving family members and friends.
A private viewing will take place on Tuesday, July 7, 2015, from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Los Angeles Funeral Home, 300 Cheatham St., in San Marcos. Visitation is scheduled afterward, from 1 – 4 p.m.
The Recitation of the Rosary will take place at St. John’s Catholic Church, 624 E. Hopkins, in San Marcos, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 7.
Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, July 8, 2015, at 10 a.m. at St. John’s Catholic Church, with burial following to the San Juan Cemetery, off Callihan Road, in Prairie Lea.
Editor’s Note – Under State law, the Caldwell County Commissioners Court will appoint a qualified Constable to fill the remainder of Zapata’s term, which will expire on Dec. 31, 2016. There was no word, at press time, as to when that appointment will be discussed.