By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez
As originally published by Texas Border Business newsprint edition November 2017
This year on November 2nd, marked a double celebration for the Rio Grande Valley. Members of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce and the community selected and honored Paul Moxley and Janet Vackar as the Man, and Woman of the Year 2017.
The ceremony took place the same date as Day of the Dead celebration (Dia de los Muertos). The celebration is a major event in Mexico, and the Rio Grande Valley, which intends to preserve the cultural tradition of the indigenous people of Mexico in the ancient beliefs of honoring their deceased loved ones.
To begin the event, Eddie Lopez, General Manager of DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel McAllen, who is now serving as the new board president of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce said, “I’m excited to be the chamber’s board chairman this year; we have great opportunities and great challenges.”
He continued, “In challenging times, the McAllen Chamber of Commerce has a role to play in impacting the economy. It is my goal to bring focus and attention to the key drivers of our economy: retail sales, hotel occupancy, bridge crossings, and critical investments in McAllen.”
The Man & Woman of the Year is a historic traditional celebration in McAllen. This time, the organizers chose once again, Valencia Event Center, to celebrate the 63rd Annual Banquet. The facility is big, but possibly never big enough to hold a celebration to honor Paul Moxley and Janet Vackar. Both have a long and reputable standing in this community. Because of that, this celebration became an instant success right from its inception. Friends, family and the business community gathered to witness and to honor these two one-of-a-kind citizens.
First came Paul Moxley, and through a video presentation it was said that those who learned that Paul was chosen as McAllen Chamber’s Man of the Year were shocked. Not that they didn’t believe he deserved the award; most were simply convinced he won the award years ago.
Paul Moxley is president and CEO of Texas Regional Bank in Harlingen. He was born in Staten Island New York but moved to McAllen as soon as he could at the tender age of six months. Paul earned a Bachelor of science degree in construction engineering from Trinity University in San Antonio. He played football in college and even played one season with the semi pro San Antonio Toros after graduation.
He began a military career in the United States Army in 1968 as a second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers. In 1969, He served as a military assistant command adviser to the Vietnamese in South Vietnam.
It was during a tumultuous time in his industry that our man of the year made a mark in this community as a pillar of strength. One component of his strength is commitment. And Paul has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to his community.
A pillar of strength, he is an even keeled and lovable man who took pride and stays active in the community that he has always loved. That is why we honor Paul Moxley as the McAllen Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year 2017.
Joe Brown, Executive Director Rio Grande Valley Community Foundation, “You know, I was really surprised when I heard that Paul Moxley had been selected Man of the Year because I thought he had earned it years ago. ‘Mox’ is a talent. I mean, he has a lot of raw talent and I’ve been around a lot of athletes. I’ve never met a person who could throw a ball or even a golf club as far as Moxley.
All the bankers out there are involved in the community and helping the community grow. Mox is one of those but he’s one of the big ones. I mean he’s been involved in the McAllen community since way back and then got involved in a lot of projects that make this community grow. Mox has always been there. He serves on the MEDC Board and is still active to this day doing those kinds of things.
Steve Ahlenius: “I was kind of surprised when I called and told him that he’d been selected. I said, ‘Paul I’m amazed that you hadn’t been selected sooner than this.’ You get a feel for a person when you get to know him. In an industry that is changing rapidly with technology that impacts the banking industry and I think that it speaks well of Paul’s ability to maneuver and to strategically place the bank in a really good position.”
Dr. Shirley Reed, President of South Texas College, “Paul is very handsome, very smart, very charismatic, and very community oriented. Yeah. My initial thought of Paul. I am also from the Vietnam era and I think everybody I knew was also part of that era but he did have the stature of a very competent and confident military man.
He was the kind of leader we wanted to follow. So, it seemed just about anything that he wanted to bring forward for the city of McAllen, he had followership. To me leadership is all about having followership. His involvement in McAllen is very apparent; he’s very involved in the community. I’ve been involved with him all the way from McAllen Rotary to the Boys and Girls Club, and the McAllen Chamber.”
Jason Leal, Vice President Texas Regional Bank, “I met Mr. Moxley a little over twenty-two years ago, maybe 23. I was fairly new to the bank industry. To be honest I rarely heard that he was from anywhere else or he had gone anywhere else. It was always about helping McAllen grow.
I think more than anything of the Vietnam experience for him brought more empathy back to the organization and to his team members. So, his legacy will be one of a great heart, a great dedicated man, and one that really strived to make his community and his city of the best it could be.”
Sen. Eddie Lucio, State Senator, “He was such an incredible young man. A clean-cut all-American, looking young and smart. He served our country with distinction. And one can be very proud in reading his bio. He is a leader. He leads through example. He defines the word leadership. To me it’s always been that leadership is not the ability to tell people what to do as a boss, as a president of a bank, but it is the ability to make people want to do the right thing through example and Paul does that.”
Howard Pebley, owner McAllen Construction, “He was a very good football player. He played semi pro football. He was in the military in ‘Nam, I think he served two tours. I was in the reserve and he had come back from Vietnam and he was my commanding officer at the Army Reserve and McAllen.”
Glen Roney, Past Chairman and CEO of Texas State Bank, “From day one, we felt like if we were going to be part of a community, particularly in McAllen, that we needed to be active and participate in both charitable, political and other organizations in the city and around the city.”
Jim Darling, McAllen Mayor, “You know, he’s a guy who could have been successful anywhere and he stayed in McAllen and got his success here. He’s a great example of someone giving back to the community.”
To speak to those who know the McAllen Chamber Woman of the Year is to hear a tale of love.
Janet Ogden Vackar was born in Weslaco and grew up in the Rio Grande Valley where her parents began the Bert Ogden Auto Group with a Pontiac, Buick and GMC dealership in Edinburg.
When asked about her success, Janet credits her family which is a big part of her life. She once told her father that he looked nervous on a TV commercial. So, he asked her to join him on future commercials. It resulted in a special father daughter advertising duo.
Janet has often said that she cherishes special moments with her father. After 32 years of representing the Bert Ogden name Janet continues to use her father’s favorite slogan “Dale Gas” in honor of him. It’s a special remembrance emanating from a terrible tragedy that struck in 1992.
A father daughter duo became a husband wife duo as the dealership began growing, Janet increasingly began giving back to a community that generously supported her family’s business.
Janet and Bob Vackar motivate each other every day and live by the mantra, no matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up, and never give up. In that spirit, Janet Vackar was honored as the McAllen Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Year 2017.
As Janet stepped to the podium filled with emotion after watching a video introduction or herself, she wiped tears from her eyes. The video, although short, contained images and television commercials that she had recorded with her father, Bert Ogden promoting their dealership.
Recalling those memories brought a combination of happy and sad thoughts that touched her, but, the company of hundreds of friends during that extraordinary night while being honored Woman of the Year made her feel comfortable and strong.
Janet is known as a loving, caring person. She is one to recognize the greatness of people. She said to be proud of Bob, her husband, who helped her mourn when her parents lost their lives in a car accident. “My husband is my rock,” Bob allowed me to grieve, to move forward, and not to give up.” “I appreciate that.”
Janet said to Bob, “I know we go back and forth about work being too much and too hard, but I know it’s because you want me to be proud of you. I keep telling you that I’ve always been proud of you for years; what you’ve done for my life and to help me to move forward and keep my dad’s legacy.”
“I’m sorry I cried about that. The people who spoke are my backbone. Marsha, Tasha, Ginna… so loyal to my daughter. Tasha and Marsha have been there by my side, and Robert and Adrian have been like little brothers, I call them little Bert’s.”
Janet’s good sense of humor often makes people laugh. That night, Father Labus, a priest dear to her heart was present, and she said, “Father Labus, I dressed like you tonight!” referring to her black outfit, same color. Also, she had kind words for Sister Norma Pimentel, “You are closest to God in my book.”
Even though thirty five years have gone by, she thanked Kathy Collins because when Janet moved back to the Valley in 1982, Kathy made sure that Janet was invited everywhere.
As she enjoys the company of everyone around her, during this particular occasion, she used her charm and humor once again and said two names, Paul and Paula. “Who marries a Paul and Paula?”
Paul Moxley was honored as the Man of the Year, with him his wife, Paula. “Paula and I went to junior high together. She was most popular and best all-around, and Paul was most handsome, and I was the class clown, I really was!” she said.
Janet told Texas Border Business, “I like to surround myself with smart people, I am like a sponge, and I want to learn from them.” She said that Marsha Green and Tasha del Barrio are two of the smartest people she has ever known, “Marsha and Tasha are my right and left arm!”
In addition, she said, “Cherie Onderdon is smart, kind and a loyal friend! We go way back!”
“Augie and Johnny are my heart; they are my cheering squad. They go out and do what I cannot do. They represent me and my father’s name with a heart of gold, in my opinion.”
Pattie Rosenlund, the Executive Director for Easter Seals, attended the ceremony and Janet said she has great appreciation for her because she helps children with disabilities.
Highlighting skills and kindness of people around her represents an honor. Her admiration for Dr. Kelly Scrivner, the VP for Institutional Advancement at UTRGV, and Dr. Guy Bailey, the president of UTRGV, for encouraging young people to achieve their goals in life.
“All those people who are so intelligent and such dedicated individuals, they represent what I love, and I like to be part of each one of them because I have them on a high pedestal.”
She continued, “My husband, well, you know how I brag about him, he works so hard. I know how smart he is and business-minded, and I like to make him relax and enjoy himself.”
Janet shared that in 1992 during spring break when her parents had the accident and lost their lives, she was supposed to be with them.
Her participation in Springfest organization kept her in McAllen. Organizers had asked Janet to be the Mistress of Ceremony, and she had been preparing for this performance for a week.
“I had talked to my mom, but I didn’t even tell her as I was busy preparing my notes to appear on stage, I was nervous.” She continued, “My mom called me that Saturday morning to ask me to join her and dad because they were going to the Island for Spring Break. I don’t remember what Bob was doing, but mom wanted Kristin and me to come, and I said, ‘Mom, I am sorry, I can’t.”
Janet knows that God spared her, and gives all the credit to Him. She also is grateful to the City of McAllen because the SpringFest celebration kept her in McAllen.
Janet remembers working diligently with Elda Sinder in preparation for the festival ceremony. But unfortunately, she called her around 4:30 in the morning grieving and in shock, and letting her know that she was not participating that night.
As Janet remembers and tells the episode that changed her life in many ways, her voice trembled a bit, however, recovered and said, “I never told anybody about this.”
The “Walk to Emmaus” helped Janet one year later to deal with her great loss
A year prior almost to the tragic day, Keith Kinsolving, Melba’s son, sponsored her to a “Walk to Emmaus,” a Christian retreat weekend. At the end of the Walk, the participants are surprised with cards, letters, and love from family and friends. “I remember opening my mom’s card to me, and she wrote, “You have grown to be a lovely young woman. Always remember to be a woman of substance.”
Janet said, “I didn’t understand it at the time, but after looking for meaning, I understood what she meant. That’s why I aspire to be kind to others because my mother was that way. In the videos, there was always talk about my dad, but my mom and I were very close, and this is very emotional for me. My mom was also very private, and I always keep her private because that’s the way she was. My mother was just as important.”
Janet said that the people she mentioned are her biggest inspiration and she felt it was important to say it. “It was very emotional for me, but I appreciate it. The Chamber did a fabulous job. Thank you, I love everybody, thank you for coming,” she finalized.
Robert “Bob” Vackar, “You know, Janet was a beautiful young lady. She still is. She’s a beautiful woman. And she has a very vibrant personality.” Bob said that Janet’s legacy will be her warm and giving heart.
Natasha del Barrio, CEO Bert Ogden Fiesta Dealerships, “Janet is just so fine and loving and vibrant, she makes everyone feel at ease. When the untimely death of her parents occurred, you can imagine she was just crushed. She once told me that she had shoe boxes full of the letters that she received from the community of residents here in the Valley, of support. It really struck a very deep chord with her and she credits the Rio Grande Valley with helping her get through the toughest time in her life because she received so much love and support from Valley residents.”
Cherie Onderdon, Senior Account Executive KRGV, “Janet does have a gift for putting people at ease and it’s normally well with compassion and laughter too.”
Dr. Kelly Scrivner, VP for Institutional Advancement, UTRGV, “Her smile just lights up the room. She has charisma. She has class. She’s smart, she’s talented but most of all, she’s kind. You don’t have to know her very long to know she is all about her family.”
Roberto Lucio, COO, Bert Ogden Fiesta Dealers, “In the first meeting, the first words that came out of her mouth were ‘Welcome aboard. I just want you to understand, to carry my father’s integrity and his legacy is very important to me.’ You know she’s got pictures and posts pictures all day long about her family. Definitely, it’s something that’s very dear to her.”
Adrian Burone, GM, Bert Ogden Toyota, “I first met Mrs. Vackar, I would say 15 or 16 years ago. Needless to say, I was very star-struck. The commercials have always been really important to Janet because it was her connection with her father.”
Marsha Green, VP Marketing, Bert Ogden Fiesta Dealerships “Being around as long as I have, I know that she struggled with it. It was it was very difficult, very deeply personal to her.” According to Marsha, Bob is John Wayne and Janet is Lucille Ball, simply larger than life. She also pointed out that Janet’s legacy is going to be “Dale Gas”.
Ginna Villarreal, family friend and owner of The Dry Room, “So Kristin (her daughter) moved to Colorado; but Janet loves those grandkids. I think they turned her world upside down. Ginna refers Janet’s love for her grandchildren.
Pattie Rosenlund, Executive Director, Easter Seals, “You can’t really say Janet without saying Bob and Kristin.”
Agustin Lozano, Public Relations Manager, Bert Ogden Fiesta Dealerships, “It’s hard for me to see the father not being there. But she has courageously carried on the tradition of her dad.”
Johnny Rodriguez, Public Relations, Bert Ogden Fiesta Dealerships, “I think Janet saw the passion her dad had and the company he founded. From my point of view, Janet’s legacy will be her kindness, generosity, humility and love.”
Father Gregory T. Labus, St. Joseph Catholic Church, “Well I think they are a great pair because they each have their own gifts and they use those gifts very successfully.”
Dr. Guy Bailey, President UTRGV, “She adores the community and the community adores her.”
Sister Norma Pimentel, Catholic charities, “You know the more I come to know Janet, the more I see what a significant presence she has here in our community.”