Marco Rubio’s father passed away over the weekend. Tonight in Miami, they’re having a visitation for him.
On Rubio’s website is a letter eulogizing his dad. Everybody should read it.
The link is here, but what follows is a long excerpt…
My father Mario Rubio passed away on Saturday night.
My father knew real adversity from early in life. His mother passed away just days shy of his 9th birthday. By the time he was 14, he was working as a security guard at a La Casa de los Tres Kilos (“The Home of the Three Cents” – a kind of five and dime) and at night he slept in a small room in the storage area.
A few years later, he met a young 17-year-old cashier named Oriales. They married a year later and their first son, my older brother Mario, was born in Havana one year after that.
Soon after, they left their country behind and came to America. They tried their luck in several cities, New York, Los Angeles, even a brief stint in Las Vegas. But they wound up back in Miami.
In America, my father tried his hand at many different things. He opened a small sandwich shop, a beauty supply store and even a dry cleaner. It was his dream to own and successfully run his own business. But by the time he was my age, in the mid 1960’s, he realized they would not be returning to Cuba anytime soon.
Faced with the growing obligations of his young family, he had to abandon those dreams for something more stable. He settled down as a bartender for a chain of hotels on Miami Beach and rose from bar boy to head bartender in less than five years.
For the first time in his life, he had stability, and he and my mother embarked on the second act of their life. I was born in 1971 when my dad was 44 years old. And then 18 months later, they had my sister Veronica
No matter how hard he worked, he always made sure we knew that we were his first priority.
As a young child, I wore braces on my legs to correct a knee problem. I hated to wear them. So my dad would call from work and pretend to be Don Shula telling me I needed to wear them if I wanted to play for the Dolphins. (I always wondered why Shula had a Cuban accent on the phone but not on TV!)
I remember we would drop Veronica and my mom off at the movies and we would go to the Dolphin games at the Orange Bowl.
Sometimes, he would take us to a fire station on NW 7th Street and LeJeune and ask the firefighters if they would let us sit on their truck (they always did).
Every so often, they would wake us before the sun came up and surprise us with a one-day trip to Disney World.
And every Sunday, it was breakfast at the International House of Pancakes, or as my dad would call it, “Pancake House.”
By the late 1970’s, the hotels on the beach were struggling and my dad left Miami for Las Vegas to find work and set us up to move there. He found a job working as a bar boy at a new hotel called Sam’s Town.
He had 20 years of bartending experience but was now working under people just out of bartending school. He took it all in stride and soon he was a bartender during the most coveted shift. In May of 1979, he moved the whole family to Las Vegas. But not before he took us all to the Kennedy Space Center as a birthday gift.
The next 6 years were among the best of our lives. Both my parents worked in hotels; my dad a bartender, my mom a maid. But they did everything they could to make our lives fun. My dad built an above ground pool in the backyard and a basketball net in the front. He was the equipment manager for my Pop Warner football team. And in 7th and 8th grades, every Saturday he would drop me off at the roller skating rink at 6 p.m. and pick me up at 11 p.m.
In Las Vegas, my parents had steady jobs that paid well and jobs in the hotel industry were easily available. That was great for them, but they cared most about what was best for us. My parents feared that if we stayed in Las Vegas we would be drawn into the same employment they had. They wanted us to have dreams and to be in a place where we would have more success pursuing our dreams than they had pursuing theirs. So in 1985, they moved the family back to Miami.
They bought a house in West Miami and my dad went to work at Mayfair House Hotel in Coconut Grove. Two years later, my mother began to work at K-Mart as a stock clerk.
After high school, I went away to school in Gainesville. I lived on student loans, grants and a part time job. But every few weeks, my dad would send me a $20 bill. (I know he wished it could have been $200 or $2,000.)
My father was the most unselfish person I ever met. You had to be careful not to mention any particular need or wish around him because before you knew it, he was solving it for you.
Like the Christmas after my wedding, I happened to mention I needed to go get a Christmas tree. One hour later, I see my dad driving up with one of those trees you can buy at Winn-Dixie. It was the smallest tree we ever had. And the one I will always remember the most.
Neither as a child nor as an adult, do I ever remember my dad having the “day off” to do his things. His things always seemed to be about someone else. Usually about us.
The last 13 years of his life, in retrospect, were his best years.
He retired from bartending in 1997 at the age 70 and went to work as a school crossing guard, where he was made supervisor after the first two years. He didn’t stop working until he was 78.
He came to love working on my campaigns. And he regularly monitored the radio for news of what they were saying about me.
We also had the chance to do things he never had before. We went to the 2004 GOP Convention in New York and visited the old places he used to live and work. We got a tour of the West Wing of the White House and took a picture together behind the podium in the press briefing room. And he got to go to a Super Bowl game in Jacksonville along with my brother and me.
He also got to meet some of the famous people he admired from television. He met Lennox Lewis at my sister’s house. And he met Mayor Giuliani at our endorsement event in April.
By the time my U.S. Senate campaign had begun in March of 2009, my father’s energy level and health had started a slow but steady decline. But he literally spent all day monitoring Fox News to see if I was coming on. After missing a few appearances because no one told him about it, he placed the network on permanent TiVo.
Many of us make the mistake of not remembering that our parents were once our age. It was around the time my father was my age that he realized he had to make a choice. He was never going to go back to Cuba, back to the dreams he had for himself as a boy. Now he had to focus on his family’s future and set them up so they could do the things he never could.
I realize everyday, and today more than ever, that every opportunity I have had is the result of the selfless decisions he made, even before I was born.
We, his four children, were the purpose of his life. And our accomplishments were not just a source of natural parental pride, they were and are affirmation that he mattered. That his life had real purpose. That his sacrifices were not in vain.
My dad was proud of all of his children and grandchildren. And he would have been proud of me no matter what I chose to do. But I think what made him especially proud of the career I have chosen is because of how far it is from the one he had.
For years, my dad would work banquets at hotels. Many times, these events featured a well-known figure giving a speech. At these events, there are usually only two people standing behind a table. The speaker who is behind a podium, and a bartender behind the bar.
My dad was the one behind the bar. But he worked all his life so that his kids could make the symbolic journey from behind the bar to behind the podium. And in fact, I literally did.
That journey is a testament to the greatness of America. And that journey was the purpose of my father’s life.
My father mattered. He was not famous, wealthy or influential. But he mattered in a way we too often overlook today. He mattered not because of what he accomplished himself, but because of what his life allowed others to do.
I am grateful that God blessed me with this man as my father.
We will be honoring his life with a visitation service tonight, Tuesday, September 7, from 6:00 P.M. until 10:00P.M. at Memorial Plan Westchester, located at 9800 Coral Way in Miami, Florida.
In lieu of flowers, we are asking for donations to be made to The League Against Cancer/La Liga Contra El Cancer.
Contributions can be made via their website or brought to tonight’s service.
2180 Southwest 12th Avenue
Miami, FL 33129-2615
On behalf of my family, thank you for your prayers and words of support during this difficult period.
It’s not often you find a political candidate whose story and whose words can actually inspire. Rubio is one of the few who can. It appears he has the inside track to winning a Senate seat; let’s hope that current trends continue.