In the book, “The Choice is Yours”, author Terri Chappel writes, “So often as we make choices, we are oblivious to the fact that the choices we make have significant consequences on the rest of our lives and the lives of others. Our daily choices effect our future and they greatly impact those in our circle of influence—our husbands, children, grandchildren, co-workers, and our friends. A lot is at stake and we must choose wisely.”
Today’s Sponsor of the Week at our Senior Citizens Center is Alma Leal—a lady who has made some very important choices in her life. She is a very spirited woman who puts God first and then her children and family.
Alma and her husband Antonio Jaramillo were married some 41 years ago. They were partners in everything they did. Antonio worked the back part of the restaurants and Alma worked the front. The two of them opened many Leal’s Restaurants across the state. They would build them and grow them and then sell them when they felt it was time to do so. They worked all over Texas and New Mexico. Just some of their locations were in Wichita Falls, Henrietta, Hobbs, and Iowa Park.
Antonio was in the service during the Vietnam War. He, like so many of our brave soldiers acquired Agent Orange while there. As a result, he was unfortunately diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease later in life. As he grew older, the Parkinson’s became more than he could handle. He and Alma agreed to move back to West Texas. Unfortunately, Antonio passed away in September of 2016.
Understandably, Alma said that this was the roughest and darkest time in her life. She had not only lost her soul-mate. She had lost the pillar of her family. Alma soon had many struggles with the businesses and numerous obstacles to overcome. Antonio was gone, but Alma had four loving sons to help her through the toughest of times.
Her oldest son is Reginald Leal. Reggie, as they call him, received his Bachelor’s Degree from Midwestern and then his Master’s of Business Administration at Texas Tech, and then his Doctorate in Personal Finance. He surprised his mom by buying her a beautiful new home in Lubbock after she and Victor Leal (her second son) had agreed to open the Tamale Factory in Lubbock.
As mentioned above, her second son was named Victor, He was the one in the family who wanted to carry on the Leal’s legacy. He is very good and knowledgeable about business and he is doing a great job working with Alma at the Tamale Factory.
Nicholas was the third son. He became a pilot and worked for a while at NASA. He is now working to get his Doctorate Degree in Engineering.
The youngest son is Matthew. He has just graduated with his Doctorate and is now working to find the job he desires. Alma loves her children dearly. She was eager to tell me that she has 8 grandchildren. Five from Reginald and three from Victor.
I mentioned to Alma how great it was that all of her children had gone to fine schools and were successful in their endeavors. Her response was, “Yes, I am proud of all of them, but I was the one who went to the greatest school.” “What school was that,” I asked. She responded, “The School of Hard Knocks” run by Mr. Jessie Leal.” If you don’t know—Jessie was her father and could have very well run such a school!
Alma has been awarded many rewards and won many honors during her lifetime. Her most recent was a win in the top tamale/restaurant businesses in the state of Texas. If you just think of the many Mexican food restaurants and tamale businesses in the state—this was truly and honor. Also, many of her restaurants have been named Business of the Year!
Alma once received a phone call from Senator Ted Cruz who wanted to order tamales for an event to be held for the Senators in Washington. Everything was all set and ready to go. Then the day of the Senator’s event just happened to be one of those where snow and ice covered the roads. She and the Senator both were unable to get any transport vehicles to get them to Washington. One of her greatest disappointments was being unable to feed all of those Senators.
I asked Alma to tell me what it was like to grow up in Muleshoe. “Being the first daughter of Jessie and Irma Leal—I was way too sheltered,” she said. But she told me, too, that she was a little daring at times. She said one of her greatest memories was getting to go up on the airplanes with Mr. Morgan Locker. He would do “stalls” just for the fun of it and then “loops” that would frighten anyone. She said it was the greatest adventure in the small town of Muleshoe.
I then asked Alma if she would like to share any unique incident in her life. Here is the story she told me. “Because Antonio was ill and could no longer help me at the restaurants, I decided to leave the business, go to school, and become a CPA. Reggie, my oldest son, was in school at the time. As it turned out, Reggie was graduating as Valedictorian of New Mexico Military Institute at the same time I was graduating there as a CPA. So mother and son were graduating together. We were all in line, ready to start marching in when we realized we had accidentally switched gowns. He was wearing my short gown for the women graduates and I was wearing his long gown. We had to hurriedly switch gowns right after the marching music began. In addition, the wind blew away my graduation cap while switching gowns and I had to run and get it back which delayed us even more. We laughed for days about the mess we were in and how funny it would have been to see the Valedictorian walking across the stage with a gown above his knees!”
Another funny story she told was about her youngest brother, Abel. As a youngster he loved baseball. So, of course, he played in the little league of Muleshoe. It was his first year to play and he was about 5 or 6 years old. He was probably a little too young to be playing we realized because whether he hit the ball or not—he ran all of the bases. His coaches and his family told him over and over he shouldn’t run if he didn’t hit the ball. But the entire season they never convinced him not to run. It changed the length of the game as the entire team had to wait for him to finish his run every time he came to bat. So, Abel became known for what he and Forrest Gump did best—they ran!
I asked Alma the question, “Can you name at least 5 words to describe yourself as a business woman?” Her words were hard-working, humble, thankful, non-complainer, and Faith…The most important one to her was her faith. She told me, “My in God has given me the courage and strength to do what I have done.” She went on to say, “The good Lord is so great and I am thankful every day for what He has done for me and my family.” She said her parents always told her, “Life is to be a blessing for others and no matter what our roles are, we all need God’s resources.”
Next time you are in Lubbock, I encourage you to stop in at Leal’s Tamale Factory and More located at 6205 19th Street. They are open every day (Monday through Friday) from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. As advertised, it truly is more than just tamales. Their menu is huge offering Quesadillas, Enchiladas, Tacos, Burritos, Chalupas, Carne Guisada, and many other Leal favorites.
After completing my interview with Alma for this article, she sent us out in “true Leal style” with bags full of many of the items listed above. Thank you, Alma for your gracious generosity. I won’t have to cook for a whole week. The food, also in “true Leal’s style”—is the best ever!
Keeping Up With Our Seniors