April 17, 1922 - January 17, 2021
José Rubén López, World War II hero, longtime Crystal City business owner, dies José Rubén López, son of Mexican immigrants and migrant farm worker who became a decorated World War II war hero in the Italian Alps and later in the Pacific, died Sunday, January 17, 2021, at the veteran’s home facility in Floresville. He was 98. López, commonly known as Rubén, had lived most of his life in Crystal City, where he and his wife owned and managed The Tavern, a popular restaurant at which he once worked as a dishwasher, cook and waiter. When he volunteered for the war effort in December 1942, what the Army saw was a lean, strong athletic young man, perfectly suited for a special kind of combat: fighting with the 10th Mountain Division in the Italian Alps against German forces. The reality was that López’s physique was the result of his hard work as a migrant farm worker (his first child was born in Wisconsin, while the family was working in the fields of that northern state). He had never even seen snow, much less skied in it, when he was sent off to Camp Hale in Colorado to train in the Rocky Mountains where he learned to ski, snowshoe, rock climb and cold-weather survival tactics such as keeping warm by building snow caves. Nevertheless, he not only survived, he thrived in the harsh, cold mountainous region in altitudes of up to 13,500 feet, in five to six feet of snow and in temperatures that dropped to 20 degrees below zero at night. Designated as a mountain warfare unit, the 10th is the only division of its size in the U.S. military to receive intense specialized training for fighting in mountainous and arctic conditions. It fought in the Italian Alps in some of the roughest terrain in World War II. On May 5, 1945 the Division reached Nauders, Austria, where it made contact with German forces being pushed south by the U.S. Seventh Army. A status quo was maintained until the enemy had completed its surrender to the Seventh. The next day, 10th Mountain troops met the 44th Infantry Division of the Seventh Army. The 10th Division was the subject of the 1996 film Fire on the Mountain, which documented its exploits during World War II. For his service in Europe, López was awarded the Bronze Star, awarded for heroic achievement in combat. According to a citation, on April 27, 1945, near the town of Garda in Italy, López assumed command of a rifle squad after its leader had been killed. He then led his men throughout the final offensive in Italy. When the advance was held up by an enemy roadblock, López and his squad inflicted heavy damage and infiltrated through the enemy’s position and into a town. There, he engaged the Germans in a fire fight and drove them from the town. “He continually exposed himself to the greatest danger and demonstrated the finest leadership in ability in accomplishing this vital mission, which enabled the advance to continue,” according to the citation. After his service in Europe, López was assigned to the Asiatic Pacific Campaign against the Japanese until the war ended in August 1945. He served in the Philippines, where he earned a second Bronze Star. He was also awarded a Purple Heart for injuries incurred in battle. A modest man, López rarely spoke of his Army exploits. In fact, it wasn’t until late in his life that many people learned about his heroism. After the war, many veterans of the 10th returned to Colorado and other western states to work in the U.S. ski industry, but López chose to return to Crystal City to return to his wife, Carmela Galván, who died in July 1993. They had two children, Sylvia, of San Antonio, and José Rubén Jr., (Pache) who died in July 2012. In addition to Sylvia, numerous nephews and nieces survive him, as do their children and grandchildren. José Rubén López was born on April 17, 1926, in Laredo, to Dionicio López and María Cruz López, eight years after the family had moved from their home near Vallecío, near Sabinas, in the Mexican state of Nuevo León. The family moved to Crystal City a few years later. Upon his release from the Army in 1945, López decided to use his experience during the war, which included ensuring that his fellow soldiers were fed. He first worked with his brother Juan Manuel at his small grocery store, López Fruit Stand but after a couple of years he started working at The Tavern, which he eventually ended up owning. As a businessman, López took it upon himself to hire young people from the barrios. He taught them not only how to perform their jobs, but also skills such as financial literacy and personal grooming. “He wanted them to be successful,” says his daughter. “He wanted them to have the skills they needed for success.” López was the last surviving member of a large family. Preceding him in death were his parents and his siblings: Juan Manuel López, Bruno López, Martina Palomo, Francisca Morín, María Arenas, Antonio López, Dolores Vega, María Sara Fuentes, José Cleto López, María Leandra Avelar, María Jesusita Muñoz and José Ramón López. Following a small service, mandated by the Covid-10 pandemic, López will be buried at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio with full military honors. Lopez was a member of the Melecio Ortiz American Legion Post in Crystal City. *Due to Covid-19 regulations the family will be having private ceremony at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. A public memorial will be arranged at a later date and time and he family thanks you in advance for your understanding*
José Rubén López, World War II hero, longtime Crystal City business owner, dies José Rubén López, son of Mexican immigrants and migrant farm worker who became a decorated World War II war hero in the Italian Alps and later in the Pacific,... View Obituary & Service Information
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