In Memoriam

Mario Rubio, RIP

What a shame this great American won't have a chance to see his son sworn in as a U.S. senator.

By 9.7.10

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Not too many people outside of Miami knew the late Mario Rubio. There's no statue of him in Washington, not even in Miami. There's no college building, courthouse, or highway named after him. Perhaps there should be. He did some pretty great things under more adverse circumstances than most Americans can even imagine.

Rubio died Saturday at Baptist Hospital in Miami at age 83 after what many people, but almost certainly not Mario himself, would have considered a hard life. Mario went to work at an age when others are going to elementary school. He worked into his late seventies, mostly as a bartender (a most under-appreciated vocation).

Until age 32 Rubio worked in his native Cuba. But after El Jefe Maximo came down out of the mountains, stole Mario's country, and turned it into a leftist prison, Mario managed to get his family to the United States, one of his great enduring gifts to them. He worked at hard jobs that don't pay much so that his children -- he had four with his wife of 61 years, Orio -- could have better.

Well, they have had better. One of those children, Marco, born after the Rubios had made it to America, has achieved a successful career as a lawyer and a politician (managing the latter without having to wear fatigues and carry an automatic weapon). Marco Rubio, former Speaker of the Florida House, is Florida's Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat. He praised his father in this way:

My father knew hard work and struggle from very early in his life. His mother died when he was only nine. The day after his mother was buried he went to work with his father and did not stop working until he was 78 years old.

He was by far the most unselfish person I have ever known, always focused on others, and never on his own well-being. He was especially determined to provide his children with opportunities he himself never had.

My dad worked as a street vendor, security guard, apartment building manager, and crossing guard. But for most of his life he was a bartender, and by all accounts a great one. But the greatest success came from the two most important jobs he ever had: husband and father.

He was very proud of my public service. And over the last 18 months he became an expert channel surfer, constantly searching for my next television interview.

I was blessed to be raised by a world-class father. And I thank God for allowing my father to live long and healthy enough to see that the sacrifices he made for us were not in vain.

The Rubio campaign will pause now, as the Rubio family deals with matters of more elemental importance than politics. But it won't pause long. There will be an election in less than two months -- though the heavens fall. And Marco Rubio has based his conservative campaign on protecting those things about America that allow people like his father to work miracles for their families.

Mario Rubio saw left-wing bullies steal his country. And just because the current band of left-wingers in power in America don't wear fatigues and carry automatic weapons (and their own nannies won't allow them to smoke cigars), there are still plenty of parallels that Marco Rubio has drawn attention to on the campaign trail. Along with Mario Rubio's own personal qualities, it was America's long-established traditions of limited government, personal freedom, and reliance on capitalism that allowed Mario to be the success he was, and to help lift his children even higher. These are traditions under assault today.

Happily, there are lots of Mario Rubios in America, some with last names that end in a vowel, others not. You've got your Smith, Washington, Koslowski, Feldman, Esposito, Chin, Hostetler, Nguyen, Many Goats, et al. They, not the political elites that strive to boss them around and take what they've earned, are what makes America the great and exceptional place it has always been, and could remain if we have the wisdom and strength to keep it that way. It's right that we pay tribute to them at a sad time for the Rubio family.

RIP Mario Rubio.

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About the Author

Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.