Bexar County Sheriff Deputies carry the casket of Paul Elizondo as family (left) looks on.
Bexar County sheriff's deputies carry the casket of Paul Elizondo as family members look on. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

When the bells of San Fernando Cathedral rang at 10 a.m. Thursday, Bexar County sheriff’s deputies carried the casket containing the late Paul Elizondo into the historic cathedral.

Inside, a capacity crowd awaited to pay their final respects to Elizondo, the longtime Bexar County commissioner and former state lawmaker and educator who died Dec. 27 at age 83.

Many people, from local political, civic and business leaders to longtime personal friends, have spent the past week remembering Elizondo and his decades of public service.

Hundreds of people came to San Fernando on Wednesday for Elizondo’s rosary, giving comfort to his wife of 55 years, Irene, and their children, grandchildren, and other loved ones.

The cathedral had long been meaningful to Elizondo and his family, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller said as he began Thursday’s funeral Mass. It’s where Elizondo received his first Communion and was confirmed in the Catholic faith.

The cathedral was filled with renowned leaders and friends: Mayor Ron Nirenberg, County Judge Nelson Wolff and wife Tracy, City Councilmembers Roberto Treviño (D1), Rey Saldaña (D4) and Ana Sandoval (D7), former Mayor Henry Cisneros and wife Mary Alice, State Reps. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins and Justin Rodriguez, City Manager Sheryl Sculley, and State Sen. José Menéndez, to name a few.

The cathedral was also filled with messages of gratitude. One red heart-shaped wreath bore a message to Paul from Irene: “Forever my love.” Another wreath carried a message to Paul from his grandchildren: “We will love you always, Grandpa.”

Elizondo’s grandchildren – Adelina, Marissa and Sofia – offered a longer personal tribute in the funeral Mass program. They called their grandfather “a man of action” who “worked every day to complete projects that would benefit the people of San Antonio and Bexar County.”

“He showed his constituents that being a political person did not mean just showing up in a suit and tie, but rolling up his sleeves and working alongside them to ensure that the pursuit of happiness is for all men and women equally,” the message stated.

García-Siller said the size of the crowd at the cathedral demonstrated the wide, lasting impact of Elizondo’s service as a state legislator, Precinct 2 county commissioner, and as a community volunteer.

“He played a significant role in many significant civic projects,” García-Siller added.

García-Siller noted Elizondo’s love of playing and teaching music. One of two large photographs posted toward the back of the cathedral was a black and white image of a smiling Elizondo playing the saxophone with his band.

“As a saxophonist, (Elizondo) said, ‘We play to all walks of life. We play with passion and from the heart,’” García-Siller recalled.

Citing Pope Francis’ latest World Day of Peace message, García-Siller said Elizondo’s works as an elected official, educator, and as a community member all benefited the public.

“Pope Francis wrote that political life can become an outstanding form of charity if exercised with basic respect for life, freedom, and dignity of person,” he added.

García-Siller said Elizondo’s life, works, faith and love for family all exemplified the Beatitudes, the blessings that the New Testament says Jesus offered during his Sermon on the Mount.

“Blessed be the politician who works for the common good and not for his own interest,” García-Siller added. “Blessed be the politician who is consistent. Blessed be the politician who works for unity.”

Other longtime friends of Elizondo’s took part in the funeral Mass. Former State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte offered the first Scripture reading, Wisdom 3:1–9.

“Those who trust in him will understand the truth, those who are faithful will live with him in love; for grace and mercy await his holy ones, and he intervenes on behalf of his chosen,” Van de Putte read.

Probate Court Judge Oscar Kazen handled the second Scripture reading, 2 Timothy 4:7-8.

“I have competed well, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” Kazen read.

The Mass, which lasted nearly 90 minutes, held other heartfelt moments. Powerful performances of “How Great Art Thou” and “Ave Maria” were given by soloist Katherine Johnston and pianist Luvine Elias Jr., a former member of the legendary local band The Royal Jesters.

Afterward, family members got into a silver and gray hearse to head for San Fernando II Mausoleum, Elizondo’s final resting place.

Local leaders offered final praise for Elizondo following the Mass.

“It’s tough to summarize his legacy,” Rodriguez said. “He’s done so much for the West Side, for the community, for San Antonio. Right now, we’re just trying to honor that legacy.”

Sheryl Sculley said, “We’re grateful for his service to the community and for bettering the West Side and all of Bexar County.”

Menéndez said Elizondo did his best to improve his West Side community and beyond.

“His roots here run deep,” Menéndez added. “It’s hard to go anywhere in Bexar County and not see his footprint – obviously at the (county) courthouse, obviously with (San Pedro) Creek, and Alameda Theatre. But it’s so much deeper.”

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Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.