Rios loved family, running and Texas traditions
Robert C. Rios led a life rooted in love of family, solving problems with meticulous detail, pre-dawn runs and Texas traditions.
He died December 30 from complications of Alzheimer’s.
Rios was 87.
He was born in Elgin, called by some the sausage capital of Texas. Rios developed an early love for Elgin Hot Sausage, seeking out the smoked links at the town’s South Side Market and several other locations.
His wife of 59 years, Amalia, said he’d drive miles out of his way for a taste and if she tried to give him another brand he’d decline.
After moving from Austin to San Antonio, he attended a community dance at La Villita where he met his future spouse.
According to family lore, when he spotted her he told a friend, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry.”
His daughter, Molly Miller, said whenever the family visited the downtown plaza he would point to a particular stone as the place where he became smitten with the woman who became his wife.
His son, Robert Rios, recalled his father’s love of travel as a staple of his youth. Summers and winters were spent in a car, traveling across the United States, visiting numerous states, including California, Colorado, Florida and Wyoming.
Family and friends often accompanied Rios on trips to Mexico City and Acapulco. Later in life, he pared the vacations down to frequent visits to Las Vegas with his wife.
Rios joined the Army Reserves after graduating from Austin High School in the state capital, attaining the rank of master sergeant after 20 years of service. In 1955, he started a 33-year career in civil service, with many years at Kelly Air Force Base.
He was part of the first civilian class of computer programmers, a job that was well suited for his logical problem solving skills and meticulous nature.
Marathon running was another of Rios’ passions.
Prompted by a doctor to take up the sport to control his weight, he’d get to a track at 4 a.m. When he was in top shape, he would log 10 miles at a local high school track, family recalled.
By 7:30 a.m., after the pre-dawn run, he’d be in place at his office.
Family members recalled that he always had the mental fortitude to keep going mile after mile down the road without complaint. He completed many races, including the Houston Marathon in 1987.
In 1994, Rios was recognized by the Comisión Nacional Del Deportes (the Mexican national sports commission) as the “Best Sportsman in Running,” in 1994, traveling to Mexico City to receive the award.
A treasured family photo shows Rios standing beside a bookcase filled with more than 300 medals and trophies in a corner of his home.
Barbecuing was a hobby that resulted in his acquisition of several barrel cookers and smokers. His specialties were brisket and smoked turkey that relatives said was so tender, it fell right off the bone.
One of the high points of his life came at Blanco Cafe when he saw UT football Coach Darrell Royal. He drove home, grabbed his tattered copy of a book about the 1969 “Game of the Century” between Royal’s Longhorns and Frank Broyle’s Arkansas Razorbacks and a 30-year-old newspaper clipping, and returned to the restaurant.
Family members said the coach could see how much the items meant to Rios.
As Rios asked Royal to autograph both the book and article, he recalled the game winning play — 53 Veer Pass.
“What a memory!” the coach told Rios, his wife recalled.
He loved football and running, but Rios’ strongest passion was his love for his family.
His daughter recalled that after her son was born, all of the visitors left the room to see the newborn in the nearby nursery. But Rios stayed by her side, to care for her.
“I thought, ‘I’m still his little girl,’” she recalled fondly.
After Rios died, his son said he sat alone with his mother, recounting good memories.
“He gave us a good life,” Robert Rios, 56, said.