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Mission Historical Museum named five local residents to the museum’s “Wall of Fame” during the annual gala banquet held Thursday, Sept. 13 at The Club at Cimarron.
This year’s honorees, who were lauded for contributing to Mission’s history and success for over 30 years, were Jerry Bell, Elliott B. Bottom, Jim Schroeder, Father Roy Snipes and Clark Spikes Jr.
Gerald “Jerry” Bell
In 2010 Bell Farms celebrated 65 years of business in Penitas that has taken the family business from a profitable farming operation that Gerald “Jerry” Bell’s father, Everett, started in 1936, into the Real Estate Development Corporation.
Bell was born in Pharr in 1933 and attended Mission elementary schools. The family moved to McAllen in 1948 and he attended McHi, went to Rice University and then to Texas A & I University in Kingsville. He married Barbara Jean Liberty in 1954.
His family moved from Pharr to Mission in 1936, when Bell was 3 years old, and his father leased farmland from Milton West. In 1945 his father purchased his first 200 acres in Penitas and later turned it into 950 acres named Everett Bell Farms. It was changed to Bell Farms when sons, Jerry, Duane and Roger came into the picture.
In addition to growing a variety of crops, his father purchased land on the river to irrigate the land and tried his hand in the citrus industry. When he was not growing crops, Bell’s father raised Santa Gertrudis cattle, and grew buffel grass to feed them.
Bell started farming in 1954 in Penitas, and, in 1956, started a land leveling business with his brothers in Madero and southwest of Mission. In 1958, the family moved to Navasota to operate a land leveling business. In 1972 they moved back to Mission and returned to the family operation which then covered a total of 11,000 acres in La Joya, McCook, Jim Wells and Duval County.
By the 1990s the land along West Expressway 83 near their property was developing rapidly so Bell and his brother Duane began developing half-acre lots with septic tanks, paved roads, curbs and gutters for the brick homes. When the area is completely developed, Bell estimates there will be an additional 1,200 residential lots in Penitas to attract new businesses and multifamily development.
Bell served on the La Joya Water Supply Board for two years and the Planning & Zoning Board of Penitas since 1995. He is a supporter of the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show since 1970, became a member of Mission Rotary Club in 1960 and was a founder of the Mission Junior Chamber of Commerce in the 1950s. He became a Life Member of the Confederate Air Force in Harlingen in 1975, with the title of Crew Chief and 2,250 flying hours to his credit.
Known for the oak trees outlining their development, the Bell family has donated several to churches, other charitable groups and to JFK Elementary for their beautification projects.
In 2011, Bell was inducted to the Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame for his contributions and support by the City of Penitas.
Elliott B. Bottom
Born and raised in Donna, Elliott B. Bottom graduated from Donna High School in 1952 and went on to graduate from Southern Methodist University in Dallas
His banking career began with Citizens State Bank of Donna and then went on to work for McAllen State Bank as assistant vice-president and cashier when V.F. Neuhaus was president. Bottom left in 1961 to become executive vice-president and director of First State Bank & Trust Co. of Mission and bought it in 1969.
The bank grew largely through personal relationships and taking people at their word. Venturing into new areas, Bottom and First State Bank & Trust Co were one of the first to make loans for mobile home parks—a decision which paid off for the bank and for Mission. Under Bottom’s direction, First State Bank & Trust Co. grew to be regarded as one of the top 10 banks in the State of Texas in capital and earnings.
In 1967, Neuhaus and Bottom secured the charter for Border Bank of Hidalgo which opened for business on Nov. 1, 1968, with Neuhaus as chairman of the board and Bottom as director. On March 7, 1976, Bottom filed an application which became Citizens State Bank of Roma in July, 1977, and opened for business May 15, 1978 with Bottom as chairman of the board.
Bottom made it a point to take time for community involvement while overseeing his business interests. His personal support or donations have included the Mission Public Library—now Speer Memorial Library; Palm City 4-H of Mission-Sharyland; board member for the Tip-of-Texas Girl Scout Council; March of Dimes campaign chairman; Cancer Crusade volunteer; and state representative of District II of the Texas Bankers Association.
In 1989, the new gym at the Mission Boys & Girls Club was named the “Elliott B. Bottom Gymnasium,” for his support. In 1989, he received the “Spirit of Mission” award from the “Mission Awards Showcase” for prolonged and consistent service in the interest of the community.
Other awards include, in1990, the “Scott Toothaker Award,” given to those not directly involved in production and agriculture but support the industry in other areas; 1991—Rotary’s Paul Harris Fellow award for outstanding service to the community; 2010—inducted to the “Produce Hall of Fame” for support of the Texas Produce Industry; and 2011, both Bottom and his wife, Adelle, were inducted to the Rio Grande Valley Walk of Fame by the City of Hidalgo.
Clark Spikes Jr.
Clark Spikes Jr. was born in Harlingen on June 16, 1934 and moved with his family to Mission at the age of three. His father, Clark Spikes Sr., bought Hidalgo Motor Company from John Brannon in 1941 which became Spikes Motor Company located on East 9th Street.
Spikes’ tutelage in the family business began soon after the purchase when his father started him in the service department at the age of 9—keeping the tool boxes clean. After graduating from Mission High School in 1953, he attended college for one year and jumped headlong into things at age 19 when he went off to the Ford Marketing Institute and turned around and married Helen Gause in 1956. He became the general manager of the family business and later its owner when his father passed in 1980.
Spikes was actively involved with the Mission Chamber of Commerce serving as the board president in 1976-1977 and again in 1984-1985.
Accomplishments noted during his Chamber service included getting behind the widening of South Conway, the no-left-turn at 10th Street and Conway, the 1st Street bridge crossing, South Los Ebanos Street paving, the new La Lomita Park, La Lomita Chapel restoration and Rotary Park.
While serving as president of the chamber in 1984, he promoted the District 5 bond issue—a $3.5 million project to pave 70 miles of roads in and around Mission, including the Kika de la Garza Loop, Mayberry and Bryan Rd.
In 1978, Spikes was honored as “Man of the Year” for his Chamber service. In 1984, he and Spikes Motor Company were recognized by the Mission C.I.S. D. auto mechanics department for a $55,000 donation in auto parts to the school for resale.
He contributed to the Texas Citrus Fiesta and was an active member of the Citrus Cavaliers and also served as a volunteer fireman for the City of Mission when Hollis Rutledge was fire chief.
In 1984, Spikes broke the state record with an 824-pound Blue Marlin, which he donated to the University of Texas Pan-American Coastal Studies Laboratory.
The pinnacle of Spikes career and the growth of Spikes Motor Company came in 1996 when the operation was moved from its Ninth Street location to a new $3 million, 40,000-square-foot facility located on 15 acres on Expressway 83. Since his retirement, daughter Terry Rush and her husband Brian now own and manage the 71-year-old family business.
CLICK HERE for a full to view a full gallery from the event.
James J. Schroeder
James J. “Jim” Schroeder was born in Dallas on Dec. 14, 1943 to Norman and Dorothy Schroeder. He attended elementary school in Pharr and McAllen and graduated from PSJA High School in 1962. He played football for the PSJA Bears and in 1961 the team had a perfect season. They won ten straight games, outscoring their opponents by 330 points to win district and went to quarterfinals. From 1961-1964 the Bears won district three times, made it to quarterfinals twice, and made it to state once (1963-64).
Schroeder graduated from Texas A & I University in Kingsville in 1967 with a BBA degree. He married Jann Whitlock June 1, 1965 at First United Methodist Church in Pharr and worked for Mission Paving Company at the Harlingen branch until 1971 when they moved to Mission to live and work.
His father, Norman E. Schroeder, worked for Mission Paving since 1952 and bought the company in 1969. Schroeder became the general manager in 1978 and president and CEO in 1983, when his father retired.
Schroeder has served as director of the Rotary Club of Mission where he received the Paul Harris Fellow award. He served as director of NBC Bank of Mission, and director of the Rio Grande Valley Santa Gertrudis Cattle Association, and from 1998 to 2004 he was a director of the Mission Economic Development Authority.
Schroeder takes pride in the “Shipping for Soldiers Program” which Mission Paving Company initiated after 9/11. To date 5,000 care packages have been sent to soldiers fighting the War on Terrorism. His home on Griffin Parkway is recognizable by the red white and blue “Support our Troops” signs in his front yard a all year long. At Christmas, the home is proudly trimmed in red, white and blue Christmas lights.
Because of his love of antiques and collecting classic, he organized the Mission Classic Car Show in 2003 which has grown to be one of the city’s most successful events.
When Schroeder is not at the office, he’s found at J2 Ranch for more than 30 years overseeing 60 head of pure bred breeding stock of Santa Gertrudis cattle.
Rev. Roy Snipes, OMI
Roy Lee Snipes III was born May 23, 1945 to Roy L. Snipes, Jr. and Mary Ann Snipes. He grew up on a ranch near San Antonio and spent much of his boyhood on horseback, developing a love for the outdoors and country life.
He earned his Bachelor of Science degree at Texas A&M University in May 1968. After graduating from college, he packed his belongings and headed to San Isidro, where he taught junior high science and high school chemistry during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
It was while teaching in San Isidro that Snipes felt called to the priesthood. He began his studies for the priesthood in 1974, later coming to Mission as a priest in training. He was ordained a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate on October 17, 1980.
For the next twelve years, the now “Father Roy” ministered to the people of Roma where he was responsible for five churches.
Father Roy returned home to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mission, in 1992, where he has remained to this day. His service accomplishments at OLG have included increased financial stability to the parish and the re-opening of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic School in 2004.
With a growing congregation, it became apparent that somehow the church building would need to expand and after much effort on Father Roy’s part, approval to expand the church building was finally granted.
When not “at work,” he can be found on horseback, spending quality time with his dogs, or gliding across the water in his boat, the “Santa Maria.” He enjoys teaching kids to fish as much as teaching them to be “fishers of men.”
Because of his love for the outdoors, country music, and things Texan, Father Roy is often called “the Cowboy Priest.” As a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, he follows in the path of the Oblates who, over a hundred years ago, rode horseback from Brownsville to Roma to minister to people on the isolated ranches and in towns.
His reputation expanded one day in 1985, while still in Roma, when he found a forlorn puppy in a parking lot. With no owner to be found, Father Roy adopted her and named her Magna. She became his constant companion, even as he celebrated Mass. She eventually had her own custom-tailored vestments. Magna soon won over the congregation and the pair’s reputation became celebrated with her recognition in the Texas Animal Hall of Fame. The City of Mission re-named the street in front of the church “Magna Drive.” Magna served faithfully until she passed away in 1999 and Snipes has adopted a number of other four-legged friends since Magna—too many to name.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.