March 1, 1960-October 22, 2018
Joe M. Lara, III was born March 1, 1960 to Guadalupe and Joe Lara, Jr. in San Antonio, Texas and died peacefully surrounded by his family on October 22, 2018. The oldest of seven children, Joe was eventually raised by his grandmother, Cruz Martinez, where he received great wisdom and insight. Joe was very inquisitive as a child, systematically excavating the backyard in search of artifacts or playing for hours with his junior chemistry kit. This curiosity instilled in him his love for learning. He graduated from Wheatley High School in 1978 and in the fall entered Southwest State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology with a minor in psychology in 1983 and later a second Bachelor of Science degree in anthropology in 1985.
After briefly working as an archeologist, Joe was hired as the City Sanitarian for the City of New Braunfels in 1988. Unbeknownst to him, Joe would make this his lifelong career for 28 years. During his first year, Joe became a Registered Sanitarian through the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS). Joe continued to learn and became proficient in various areas earning representations in different agencies, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Designated Representative, TCEQ Site Evaluator, TDSHS LHA (Municipal Local Health Authority and Zoonosis Rabies Control Authority), Secretary to Animal Services Commission Board, and Archeological Liaison to Texas Historical Commission. Through his unwavering diligence, Joe sought to expand the scope of the Environmental Health Department by implementing numerous programs and passage of various statutes for New Braunfels. His efforts enhanced the profile of the department and the City throughout the region. He investigated epidemiological outbreaks including foodborne illnesses, public water issues, rabies, TB, and the like. Later in his tenure, Joe was asked to conduct the city orientation tour for newly hired employees. Having been with the City for so many years, Joe was very well-versed with the history of the City and thoroughly enjoyed sharing his wealth of historical knowledge. One of his last contributions that impacted the community the most was the ratification of the Trap Neuter and Return Program for feral cats. Joe believed this program was a humanitarian measure to keep the homeless and abandoned cat population at bay while also decreasing high euthanasia rates. At the April 2018 City Council Meeting, it was reported that since the inception of this program euthanasia rates had dropped 70%. He retired as the Environmental Health Services Manager.
It was during his early years at the city that he met his future wife, Belinda Bazán, who was at that time the Director of Nutritional Services at McKenna Memorial Hospital. It was love at first sight and after two years of professional interactions and two years of dating, he married his best friend on July 23, 1994. He loved her deeply and they shared a lifetime of love together. Joe instantly became a dad to Iliana Danielle Bazán with this union. Years later she asked him to legally adopt her, which truly thrilled him.
Joe enjoyed vacationing with his family to Disney World when Iliana was a child and later to Mexico to explore his heritage. New Orleans also held a special interest to him. Joe enjoyed experimenting with food preparation, especially BBQ. He was indeed a grill master and no one could prepare a spread like he could. Some raved about his grilled smoked salmon while others thought his brisket was superb. Grilling relaxed him and gave him opportunities to bond with the doggies as they supervised the grill master!
In March 2015, Joe was diagnosed with ALS and fought this brutal disease with much valor, dignity, grace, and acceptance. He chose to live life and not have this disease identify him. He continued to work for the City of New Braunfels until he could no longer physically meet the demands of a routine day. With much sadness, he retired June 30, 2016. On that day, the State of Texas flew the Texas Flag in his honor as a tribute to his contribution to the city. This was the first time in the history of the city that an employee had been recognized in such a significant manner. Joe fostered many lasting friendships throughout his career and at his retirement it was standing room only in the City Chambers. He loved his work and believed his contributions made a difference for the community. On April 17, 2018, Joe was awarded the first annual City Manager’s Lifetime Legacy Award for his dedication to the City of New Braunfels.
Once retired, Joe learned to utilize a special computer whereby his retinas would control the cursor. Joe continued to research, keep up with current events, and stay connected with family and friends.
Even as successful as Joe was in his professional career, he was most proud of being a loving and devoted husband, father, and grandfather. He nurtured Iliana and guided her to become a strong, vital, and dynamic individual. His influence on her will forever be his legacy to Iliana and her family. He loved Evangelina from the moment he learned she would be a new member of the family. Pictures of them clearly depict how much he loved his granddaughter.
Joe is preceded in death by his grandparents, aunt, uncles, and cousins. He is survived by his devoted and loving wife, Belinda Bazán-Lara; daughter, Iliana Bazán McGurn and son-in-law, Michael Francis McGurn; precious granddaughter, Evangelina Grace McGurn and future grandson, Finnian Joseph McGurn; parents, Lupe and Joe Lara; siblings, Terry Lara (John), Genevieve Henry (Perry), Jesse Lara (Linda), Jimmy Lara (Hayli), Jerry Lara (Kelly), Javier Lara (Eloise); aunts, Tony Martinez and Josie Segura; uncle, Manuel Martinez; and numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews. His faithful companions, Paco, Mia, and Nico will surely miss him as well.
Our family wishes to extend a profound gratitude to Dr. Albert Mosqueda. Dr. Carlyne Jackson and her team at the MARC, especially Pam Kitrell, RN, Debbie Myers, PT, Autumn Cleg, OT, Karen Martin, RD, Lori Tyler, ST, Rick Wettstein, RT, as well as the RQS team who diligently cared for Joe during these past three years. Our deep appreciation to Abimbola Falayi, CNA for his enduring and loving care for Joe; our gratefulness to Elaine Foreman, RN and Elizabeth Love, LVN for their constant attentiveness and assurance and to Liz Johnson. Our utmost appreciation to the ALS Association for their assistance. We would not have been able to walk this arduous journey if it had not been for the Bazán family and our friends that were always there to lend a helping hand. We will be forever indebted to your unwavering support.
In lieu of flowers and cards the family requests donations to the ALS Association, http://webtxportal.alsa.org/goto/joescrew2018 and donate to Joe’s Brew Crew, 4939 De Zavala Rd, #105 San Antonio, Texas 78249, or the New Braunfels Community Cat Coalition, www.nbcats.org, 3353 Morningside Drive, Suite C, New Braunfels, Texas 78132.
The vigil will be held on Sunday, October 28, 2018, at 7:30 pm at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 4201 De Zavala Rd, San Antonio, Texas 78249.
Mass of the Resurrection will be held on Monday, October 29, 2018 at 10:00 am at St. Francis Assisi of Catholic Church.