“Harold…this is Mario…”

That’s how his voicemails to me would always begin, every single time, in exactly the same tone of voice, no matter the mood he was in or the reason for the call. And usually when I returned the call to my sometimes-client and always-friend state Senator Mario Gallegos, the conversation would start the next wild ride of some sort. He always had an idea on how to stop a bad bill, or pass a good one, or to win some local Houston election, or to make bad people squirm, or to spur some economic development of some sort in his district, or to start a big fight, or something. Always something. Never nothing.

Mario passed away today. I will miss him a lot. Countless people, especially in the Capitol and in Houston, will miss him just as much.

There are two things that could be said about Mario Gallegos that one couldn’t honestly say about most people.

First, Mario Gallegos spent the entire span of his professional life in public service. Mario was a firefighter for 22 years, followed by his service of 21 years in the legislature – most straightforward resume in history. How many people can say they spent their entire life working to make everybody else’s life work better?

Second, every single day of his life – both good days and bad days – he did his very best. That’s hardly ever true of anybody, but I believe it’s true of Mario. He had some days he wasn’t proud of, and some days he fell short, other days during which he was nothing short of spectacularly heroic, and every kind of day in between, but he always did. His. Very. Best. How many people can you say that about?

There’s an old quote that I read to Senator Gallegos and his family Sunday night in Houston when I was saying goodbye. I told them that it’s a shame it’s an old quote, because anybody who knows Mario Gallegos would recognize it as something that damn well should have been written up specially for him. Here’s what I read him:

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, “holy crap! What a ride!”

Mario, they broke the mold when they made you, buddy. It was, indeed, a hell of a ride, and I will miss you something fierce. Rest in peace.

 

( Also consider reading “Rodeo Clowns,” a piece I wrote featuring Senator Gallegos more than three years ago)

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