Kathy Jackson Rodriguez
" The effects of kindness are not always seen immediately, Sometimes it takes years until your kindness will pay off, And is returned to you. And sometimes you never see the fruits of your labors, But they are there, Deep inside the soul of the one you touched.” ---author unknown
Today 5 simple lines on a website, crystallized what this unkown author was trying to say. 5- lines that brought back memories of past kindnesses freely given, of boyhood crushes and adult triumphs, of regrets never to be corrected.Today I found out Kathy Jackson Rodriguez passed away. I was sitting in my office on the 20th floor of a skyscraper in New York City. My view of the Statue of Liberty slowly being obscured by huge snowflakes from a snow storm moving into the city. The beauty of the moment was lost on me--- because I had just read these 5 lines on the EPHS Alumni website—
Kathryn Ruth Jackson Rodriguez passed away on January 11th. She was from the class of '71 and married for 29 years to Roland Rodriguez from the class of '68. Her parents still live in Eagle Pass. Frances Jackson was a High School English teacher for many years and her father works in farming. Our profound condolences to Roland and her family.
5 simple lines that stopped me in my tracks. I stared at them – I muttered out loud “ What the hell----- no way – no this can’t be right –is this Kathy? I still hear the echo of myself in my mind—the disbelief clear in my voice. I stared at the words for a long time – three or four minutes ---reading them over and over. Suddenly, I had been transported from an executive Office in New York to La Aguila--- back home to a deeply embedded memory now crystal clear of a beautiful dark haired upperclass woman with a dazzling smile, helping an overweight high school freshman find his way around to his classes on the first day of school.I can’t remember why Kathy was helping me—I think I looked lost and she did what was natural for her—she stepped up and helped. She kind of knew me of course, Roland her boyfriend and my brother Frank were both classmates and Aggies. I seem to recall Kathy riding with my parents to an A and M game onetime. That part is fuzzy, but what isn’t fuzzy is walking down the hall in the basement of the high school with her that first day. She knew everybody or so it seemed. She said Hi to everybody --- later I came to realize that she did say Hi to everyone---Kicker, Jock, Pachuco, middle, lower or upper class. It was just her nature.Needless to say some of the male upperclassmen were slightly chagrined about my escort. In about two minutes I had my first real crush---of course half the rest of male students had the same crush.I had no way of knowing that both women in the Jackson family would play brief, but key roles in my life. Kathy’s mother, Mrs. Jackson would put me on the road to a career in journalism ---- laying a foundation of self confidence, work ethic, and a sense of justice that would take me from being a river rat from Buzzard Gap to far flung places in the world .That’s 30 years in the future--- I want to go back 1970. Within a few months my crush on Kathy turned into a good friendship. She was great older sister, easy to talk to and supportive of the dreams a young Hispanic kid had about breaking out. She always seemed to be there to encourage or once to twice put me in my place. After her graduation, she went on the University of Texas I think and married Roland. I wonder if Roland ever knew that some of the guys would look at them and say “ if that ugly son of a gun could end up with her—there’s hope for all of us.” We were pretty envious.It would be about 27 years before our paths crossed again. One day about two years ago I got a call at my office at CNN from Roland. He and Kathy had just moved to Atlanta. Not long afterwards, we got together with Mr. And Mrs. Jackson, her brother Donald. Kathy’s daughter and husband at the CNN center.Kathy had not really changed—except for a few facial lines, she looked just like Kathy…long dark hair and beautiful. I could have picked her out in a mall in second even after all that time. It must have something to do with Jackson women genes because Mrs. J. looked the same too—although with graying hair. I showed everyone the newsrooms, the network I had built and then I took Mrs. J by herself on the floor of the main CNN newsroom in the middle of a livecast. She was beaming – the look on her face was priceless. I vainly and freely admit I rarely have been as proud of my career as I was in that moment. Later, as we were walking out to get lunch, in typical Kathy form, Kathy leaned over and said “ Rolly, she’s pretty proud of you” referring to her mom. “So am I.” She added.
Someone once wrote: In every pain there is tremendous opportunity for overwhelming growth. My pain comes from one great regret. I never got a chance to have Kathy meet my wife and my twins. For the last two years we tried to get together, but I never quite found the time. My home was being remodeled, so I put off inviting them over. At Christmas, I thought of her when I saw a hand bell chorus playing carols. (Kathy was active in her church and was part of the hand bell chorus.) I made a note to call and set up some time for them to come over, but once again work got in the way. I never got to it. Not long afterward a congenital heart problem worsen and Kathy passed away. Joyce Cary Wrote “I look upon life as a gift from God. I did nothing to earn it. Now that the time is coming to give it back, I have no right to complain.”Mrs. Jackson and Roland tell me Kathy ministered to the end, planned her funeral and actively selected the passages to be read. She went out on her terms – at peace with herself, and God. She had spent more than 30 years with Roland ( they started dating when he was 17 and she about 15). That alone speaks volumes about both of them. She leaves behind a great daughter and a son-in-law and she got to see her grandchild born in 2000 and one hell of a husband. Still, even though I knew intellectually that she lived a full life , I was haunted all day by her, by those she left behind.
This is the first close classmate of mine that passed away. One that touched my life in ways I really had not realized or understood. Sometime about 5 this morning I woke up for the umpteenth time. As I began to dose off again it dawned on me that I was once again a freshman in high school. I could see Kathy in my mind’s eye, except that this time Kathy wasn’t leading me through the Halls of EP High, but leading the way into another cycle of life.“Death--- the last sleep? No, it is the final awakening.” ---Walter Scott
This is Kathy’s last lesson to me. Take time to stay in touch with those you value--- and take time to say thanks to those who touched you and never knew it . Thank You Kathy
Rolando H. Santos
EPHS Class of 74