To some he was known as “Preacher,” to others he was a remarkable golfer, and then there were those who remembered his service to his country, including being a prisoner of war.
Matias Rodriguez will be well remembered in Kerrville, not just for his years of preaching, but for being a friend to many. For 40 years, Rodriguez led Calvary Baptist Church in Kerrville — a position he inherited from his father.
Rodriguez died on Saturday at the age of 95.
“I think people will remember him mostly for being their pastor,” said Rodriguez’s wife, Mary Rodriguez. The couple was to celebrate 69 years of marriage in December.
“He married so many people and presided over many funerals,” Mary said.
Rodriguez was born and raised in Kerrville, graduating from Tivy High School before heading off to World War II, where he was captured by the Germans in the waning days of the war.
He returned to the U.S., enrolling at Howard Payne University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree. He then moved onto the seminary in San Antonio. In the late 1940s, he laid eyes upon a teenaged Mary and pronounced he was going to marry her. He was right, because the couple married in 1950.
In 1964, Matias returned to Kerrville to lead Calvary Baptist — a church that his father led from 1923 until his retirement in 1963.
“I’ve known him for 35 years,” said Kerrville Mayor Bill Blackburn, who was the pastor of Trinity Baptist. “We both served as pastors at baptist churches. I always enjoyed visiting with him.”
Matias also was known as a key member of the community to connect whites and Hispanics, and often was instrumental in soothing differences in language and opinion, said Jane Ragsdale, owner of the Heart of the Hills Camp, where Matias became friends with her father.
“I only ever knew him as “Preacher,” Ragsdale said. “Preacher was so gracious. He would invite me to sing in his church. I attended his church on many occasions.”
Matias was descended from a long line of Tejano pioneers, and his father was a World War I combat veteran. Matias’ great-grandfather was the legendary Polly Rodriguez, who helped settle the Bandera area in the mid-19th century and who was noted for his conversion from Catholicism to becoming a Methodist.
Matias’ history was long shaped by Kerrville and he, in turn, helped shape Kerrville, Blackburn said.
“He counted among his best friends white folks when that didn’t happen,” Blackburn said.
Ragsdale said Matias was often critical in solving cultural obstacles between the whites and a wave of Mexican immigrants through the years. His ability to work between the two groups was one of his greatest strengths, Ragsdale said.
“(Matias) would go out and talk to the (immigrants) to find out what their skills were,” Ragsdale said. “That was really the beginning of a lot of things for people who came here.”
Known for his skills on the golf course, Mary said her husband recorded six holes in one during his play.
“People would tell him that he was so good because he had a “connection upstairs,” she said with a laugh.
Blackburn confirms Matias’ skill on the links.
“He just loved golf,” Blackburn said.
He also loved the church and the community.
“Matias and his father were real friends to the citizens of Kerrville,” Blackburn said.
Matias is survived by his wife, Mary, and his daughters Priscilla Lozano and her husband Danny, of Kerrville and Lydia Rodriguez, and grandchildren Daniel Lozano, Andrew Lozano and his wife Edianna, Ciera Fischer and her husband Gerald Rios and Sofia Rodrgiuez, and also by six great-grandchildren.