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Remembering » Remembering Joseph Rodney Flores, 1953 – 2001
Dec 21, 2003

the Kid, the Joe, the Man


What can we say about Joe that hasn’t already been said or felt? This column is by no means an exhaustive replay of Joe’s life and career, that would require volumes. He was a son of the soil, born and raised in Dangriga. As a youngster, he walked the main streets and played football like every other red blooded Belizean boy. He attended Stann Creek Methodist School, and because his grandmother was a devoted Methodist by religion, Joe grew up under the Wesleyan umbrella as well. He was a standout member of the Boy’s Brigade of the 60’s, performing all sorts of odd jobs in support of church activities. There was more to Joe’s early life though than frequent forays from one side of town to the other. Joe attended the now defunct Stann Creek High School and if I’m not mistaken he was a classmate of former Mayor and now speaker of the house, Sylvia Flores. Along the way, he learned to play a saxophone in his spare time.



Joseph Rodney Flores called Kid by his close friends and indeed family members perhaps because of his diminutive stature or more likely because he laughed so easily at life, joined the other side of his family in Los Angeles by 1971, shortly after his high school graduation. The 70’s were heady times for Joe. He played saxophone in his Dad’s band, worked side by side with him at the Leeds Corporation as a machinist in downtown Los Angeles and was, for the most part, enjoying all the trappings the nightlife had to offer in the city that never sleeps. But then, the military came calling and a new era began for Kid. 



Drafted by the United States Army, his first tour of duty began at Fort Ord in the frequently foggy confines of Northern California. More times than not, the years spent in military service affords an individual some time to reflect, grow up, earn a few bucks and learn a worthwhile trade or two useful upon return to civilian life. Sure enough Joe’s early training involved the then nascent world of pre P.C. computers. He served as the units Keypunch Operator. By design, military duty will almost always take a person out of his or her comfort zone, home surroundings and force one to adapt to a new environment, create a different set of friends and family and live a more responsible lifestyle. If the first move to Ft. Ord was not dramatic enough for a young person in the teen years, the Joe soon found himself en route to Germany, the gateway to Europe and beyond. He was, quite literally, moments away from serving in the Vietnam War. But as luck would have it, when his name was called, there were no more seats on that unit’s flight into Vietnam. Luckily for the youthful soldier, that war was coming to a close. 



Joseph Flores would go on to make a military career serving the United States Army. Among other stops, and in no particular order, Joe spent some time in Ft. Huachuca Arizona, the Aberdeen Proving Grounds of Maryland, Heidelberg, Germany and, in a career field change, joined an Infantry Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Infantry training would prepare him for stops in Honduras during the war with the Sandinistas and jungle training in Panama. Then it was off to Germany again where he spent some time at “The Rock?. It was during this time at the “The Rock? he became involved with special assignments at Fort Hood outside Killeen, Texas. The young Sergeant, a prominent Squad Leader by this time, was a full-fledged Infantryman, culminating with his participation in the overwhelmingly successful Desert Storm Campaign. Sometime during his stint at Fort Huachuca, Kid had developed a serious interest in one Alethia Lopez. They proceeded to tie the knot in Jun 1975 in Los Angeles. Lee, as her friends called her was instrumental in keeping the home intact when Joe was away on all those assignments. She was the proverbial glue that held the family together. The family unit included three lovely children: Janice, Rashida and eighteen year old Joseph Jr. Joe’s last military assignment was as a member of the 1st Cavalry in Fort Hood from which he also retired in 1993 having completed 22 years of honorable service. Killeen, Texas was to become his post retirement home and would serve as the launching pad for Garifuna Settlement Day Activities in the great state of Texas.



THE GENESIS OF A CULTURAL AWARENESS





Over the years Joe developed quite an awareness of his father’s cultural legacy to the Garifuna people. On an almost daily basis, he expanded his knowledge of his people: their culture, language, history, names of major contributors, resources, and literally hours before his death, he became involved in a census count of his people. Sometime during the summer of 1998, Joe returned from New York with a trophy dedicated to his father Justo Flores for lifetime achievement to the Garifuna cause. Returning to Killeen, he collaborated with Saraba Partis to stage the first Settlement Day celebration in the great state of Texas. The spirit of the event was a first that so stirred his juices; he under took the massive effort of putting together a newsletter which he attempted to publish on a quarterly basis. During the day he worked as a computer specialist at Central Texas College. He now had Internet resources to communicate his thoughts and writings virtually worldwide.



As the fall of 1999 approached Joe and Alethia were again at the forefront of the 2nd celebration in Texas. A third would follow in the year 2000. Responding to the all too frequent movement of Army personnel, the celebration was moved to Houston in 2001 and, even with somewhat limited direct participation, Joe’s most shining accomplishment was ensuring the participation of Andy Palacio as keynote speaker and entertainer. His last and, as it’s turned out, final newsletter was submitted a few days before his untimely demise for publication on the Garinet website under the heading Texas Garifuna-Belizeans Community Newsletter. It makes for excellent informational reading

http://garinet.com/newsletters/texanbelizean/1201/index.html

The Kid, undeniably now a full grown man had indeed found meaning and purpose to his life. He relished the notion of being a contributor, a conduit, and a difference maker. Yeah, the Kid had grown up. Spending all those years in the U.S. military coupled with his own upbringing in the shadow of Don Justo Flores cemented in his mind the importance of retaining one’s culture, individuality and uniqueness. In his own way, he badly wanted to bridge the gap spanning the cultural divide between the Caribbean and the United States. He’d plan to do this utilizing the web and newsletter articles. He was also in the early stages of completing some of his Dad’s unfinished manuscripts. But that was not to be. On his way to Dallas on the night of the 21st Dec 2001, Joseph Flores was involved in a fatal highway accident, leaving behind his wife Alethia, three children and three grandchildren. Yeah, certainly life will go on. The sun will rise again tomorrow as it always has at the dawn of another day, but we’ll no longer hear that unique laugh or see that shuffling gait of his. Joe has answered to a higher calling and we must live with that.


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