Sunshine Retirement resident Joe Cardenas gives a glimpse into his 85-year long journey


Where I grew up in Weslaco, Texas, the schools were segregated. The people like myself were called “Mexicans,” now it’s “Hispanics,” and we were in one school and the Anglo kids were in another. All our teachers were Anglo and they were very good. They knew what was going on. Weslaco is 10 miles on the Mexican border, and my parents came from Mexico during the Revolution, fleeing Pancho Villa and his gang. I was a pretty good student. I remember four days before my high school graduation I got called to the office, and the senior counselor said, “I just want you to know you have the fourth highest grade in this class.” And I told her, “I am going to go to college any way I can.” Her answer was “Good luck.”

When I got to Texas A&M, I had $200 to my name. I got my degree, went into the service for five years, then applied for law school at University of Texas Law School, the toughest one in the state. And I did it. I managed to make it. I worked for the DA, then came back to Weslaco to open my practice. I’ve been a lawyer for 40 years. My parents barely spoke English and never had good jobs. Only in America.

One of the big moments in my life: I had a secretary who I really trusted, and low and behold over the years she ended up embezzling $100K from our company. I didn’t turn her in because I knew she had this worthless husband who pressured her to do it. But I talked to the bank and put them in control. She paid off every dime, $500 every month.

Now I’m here with my wife of 58 years, Nora. She’s in hospice. I have no regrets. None. I’ve loved everything I’ve done. You get in serious problems and you overcome them. You protect your country, because everything you have is because it’s America. I couldn’t have done this in any other part of the world.

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