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Raúl Villaronga. Photo:Kdhnews.
Raul Villaronga. Photo: Killeen Daily Herald.

Raul Villaronga, the first Puerto Rican to be elected mayor in Texas, has died

The Hispanic, who was an Army colonel and earned a Silver Star for his service in the Vietnam War, died last week at age 82.

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He was about to celebrate 64 years of marriage with his wife, Julia, but death, which had eluded him so many times during his Army service, found him at the age of 82. 

Raul Villaronga, who had been a colonel for 26 years and served his country in Vietnam and later as mayor of Killeen, Texas, died last Saturday, according to the city's current mayor, Jose Segarra, after confirmation from his widow.

Villaronga was also president of the Killeen-Fort Hood League of United Latin American Citizens Council 4535 and mayor from 1992 to 1998 - in fact, the first Puerto Rican-born mayor the state of Texas ever had. He continued his career as an associate municipal judge until early 2003.

A life of dedication

Raúl Villaronga was born in 1938 in Ponce, Puerto Rico. His father had served in the U.S. Army and his mother was a teacher. He enrolled at the University of Texas and married his wife Julia in 1958, while earning a degree as an industrial engineer and second lieutenant in the infantry.

The Puerto Rican served several tours in Vietnam and received for his bravery in the jungle a Silver Star, one of the Army's highest decorations. He was also commander of Bravo Company in 1966, which Villaronga once said was the most fun time.

Later, in 2003, Raul Villaronga earned one of the highest honors in Killeen, his hometown, for his selfless service to the community and helped facilitate a year later the future opening of the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport. 

Villaronga also pushed for the creation of what is now Texas A&M University-Central Texas and the creation of a state veterans cemetery in Killeen 16 years ago. 

His friends, such as former Killeen Councilman Juan Rivera, who worked on Villaronga's mayoral campaign, called him one of his best friends and an extremely charismatic person who was willing to help the city. Rivera also said the former mayor was a good listener and had a knack for making other people better than they were. 

Others, such as former Mayor Scott Cosper, described Raul Villaronga as "a community leader who served his community" and a pioneer who pushed both people and businesses in Killeen forward. 

Rest in peace, Raul Villaronga: mayor, colonel, judge and Latino advocate for his community. 

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