HIDALGO — Four prominent city leaders, two from Harlingen and two from San Benito, were honored Feb. 28 during the BorderFest Walk of Fame celebrations.
The event is held annually in conjunction with the city of Hidalgo’s Borderfest festivities. During the 2016 RGV Walk of Fame recognition banquet at the State Farm Arena, more than 25 business and civic leaders were inducted and presented with a commemorative gift as a special memento.
Each year, nominations are received from cities and chambers of commerce across the Valley. Inductees are chosen by the RGV Walk of Fame Commission and are recognized at the ceremony with a commemorative plaque. Each honoree will have their name added on a wall inside State Farm Arena.
Hundreds attended the ceremony.
This year, four of the honorees were from the San Benito and Harlingen areas:
San Benito City Commissioner Esteban Rodriguez, Texas Regional Bank Chairman Robert Farris of Harlingen, Judge Guadalupe Ayala of San Benito and Senior Wealth Adviser, Ed Sokolosky of Harlingen.
“I was blown away,” Bobby Farris said days after the ceremony that put him in the company of some of the local people he has looked up to for years — Frank Boggus, Matt Gorges, David Allex and Col. Bill Card, just to name a few.
“I am humbled to be included in that group,” he said. “I am honored by it and I don’t think I am worthy.”
Farris, 60, is known throughout the Valley for his business acumen, community involvement, and philanthropy.
And those talents and efforts have landed him on the BorderFest Walk of Fame. He was nominated by the city of Harlingen.
“I was surprised,” he said. “I found out about it a couple days earlier. I knew many of the inductees before me and that it is a prestigious honor. I never knew I was worthy of that.”
A Harlingen native, Farris graduated from Marine Military Academy before earning a BBA in finance from the University of Texas at Austin and an MBA in finance with honors from St. Edward’s University. Those were the only years he lived away from Harlingen.
In 1980, Farris began working at Valley Transit, a full-service bus company founded by his grandfather in 1941. He has served as President of VTC since 1999, overseeing intercity, airport shuttle, charter, and package express service.
Farris holds a Texas Real Estate Broker license, is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), and is licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard as an Offshore Master Captain. He also is an accomplished pilot holding multi-engine/instrument ratings as well as a SIC rating in the B-25.
Farris also serves on four community boards and is past member of 17 other community-based organizations. Among those, he has been a Harlingen City Commissioner and also heavily involved with the Gladys Porter Zoo, American Heart Association, United Way of Harlingen, Valley Chamber of Commerce, Harlingen Chamber of Commerce, Valley Baptist Foundation, Salvation Army and Loaves and Fishes Foundation, among others.
The Farris family has long been involved in Rio Grande Valley banking. Farris’ father helped organize Harlingen State Bank in 1974. After Harlingen State Bank sold to Texas State Bank in 1999, the younger Farris served as a TSB director until 2007, when the bank sold to BBVA.
He also was elected to the Board of Texas Regional Bancshares in 2005.
Ed Sokolosky believes it is important to give back to the community. Not to receive an honor or an award, but because it does so many things for a person.
“Giving back to the community helps us feel good, and giving is good for our health, and giving promotes cooperation and social connection, it evokes a sense of gratitude,” he said. “Giving is contagious.”
Sokolosky has more than 40 years of investment and business experience that he routinely brings to the community.
The Harlingen Chamber of Commerce nominated Sokolosky because he is a strong leader in the community.
“I have been a member of the Harlingen community since 1980 and am honored to be a member of the Walk of Fame group,” he said. “I enjoy seeing myself in the following quote, ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,’ Winston Churchill.”
“Through Ed’s work as a senior financial advisor, he has offered his professional expertise to his clients as well as other organizations in the region,” stated chamber officials. “Ed is the type of volunteer that often does not sign up as a volunteer; however, he is that person who walks through this world, finding people who may need help. He is very likely to help someone who never asks for help, but appreciates his generosity.”
But, despite what he’s done for the community, the honor was a “complete surprise.”
“My first thought was that there are so many others in the community who are equally qualified to receive this honor,” he said.
As a Senior Vice President at his previous firm, A.G. Edwards and Sons, Ed was a member of the prestigious Chairman’s Council, the highest level of recognition awarded by the firm. He is a past-president of Rotary Club and a 30 year Rotarian.
He is also a U.S. Air Force Veteran.
“Anyone who has met Ed knows that he goes above and beyond in most areas of his life. Across the community, when there is a way to participate, help and contribute, Ed takes full advantage of that opportunity,” stated the chamber.
Sokolosky said he was interested and pleased to see so many walks of life at the induction ceremony.
“I see other inductees representing their respective communities,” he said. “It is always interesting to see the variety of walks of life that these inductees represent.”
SAN BENITO HONOREES
Sadly, Guadalupe Ayala was never able to enjoy his Walk of Fame induction. He died Feb. 25, just days before the induction ceremony and after a lengthy battle with cancer.
The San Benito High School graduate, Marine Corps veteran and former San Benito police officer started in the department the department as a dispatcher, became a police officer and then decided to run for justice of the peace while battling cancer.
Ayala defeated incumbent Manuel Flores Jr. in a runoff election for justice of the peace in 2014. He was sworn in on Jan. 1, 2015.
His term in office was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2018.
Ayala’s precinct ranged from El Ranchito to Arroyo City, from Rangerville Road to Los Fresnos and from parts of Harlingen to Rio Hondo and San Benito.
He was nominated by the San Benito Chamber of Commerce, which didn’t know the state of his health at the time.
“When Mr. Ayala’s name was mentioned as a potential nominee by one of our Chamber Board members, the entire board immediately agreed without hesitation. His serving nature was recognized and admired by all who knew him,” said Sandee Alvarez, chamber executive director.
“It was common knowledge that Mr. Ayala served our community with pride and deserved to be recognized for it. I must add that the majority of the board was unaware of the gravity of his state at the time the nomination was made.”
Esteban Rodriguez has served on the San Benito City Commission since his election in 2015.
During his time in office, he has voted for several new projects, including road resurfacing, the construction of a new museum and the development of a new park.
He was nominated by the City of San Benito.
“Commissioner Esteban Rodriguez works hard to represent the people of San Benito,” said Martha McClain, spokesperson for the city.
“He is a husband, father, grandfather and is self-employed in the freight business, overseeing eight workers. He is currently the president of the San Benito Economic Development Corporation, and is serving on the City Commission, a position he holds dear to his heart.”
Other inductees from the area
Juan Jose (JJ) Zamora Senior
South Padre Island:
James H. Parker
Yvonne S. “Bonnie” Brown