Our dearly departed: People who died in 2012

As the year's end triggers our obsessive compulsion for list-making, we look to those we'll miss in 2013. Mourning has its place, but in the tradition of our recent holiday passed, Día de Los Muertos, we prefer a celebration of the lives lived, the sharing of calaveras, epitaphs, and stories to encourage visits from the souls that left us behind.

Below is by no means a full list of those we lost in 2012. We encourage you to go online to sacurrent.com and use this page to share your own stories, anecdotes, poems, and memories. Perhaps you'll trigger a kind visit from the ones we wish were still here.

Alex Caragonne
Architect, author, educator, and art patron Alex Caragonne died September 12 at age 77. A graduate of UT Austin and Cornell University, he taught in the architecture schools of both his alma maters as well as Yale, Harvard, and UTSA. He is the coauthor of The Texas Rangers: Notes From an Architectural Underground and (also with Colin Rowe) the three-volume opus As I Was Saying. Another title, Teaching Architecture, is forthcoming. Plaza Guadalupe is one of his best known San Antonio works.

Lupe Ontiveros
One of the most recognizable and acclaimed Latino TV and film actresses of our time died July 26 at age 69 in Los Angeles after battling liver cancer. Born in El Paso, she would've been 70 on September 17. Besides several nominations and wins in her career, she won the Special Jury Prize for Best Dramatic Acting at Sundance in 2002, a prize she shared with America Ferrera for Real Women Have Curves, and was best known for her role as Selena's murderer in the biopic of the slain Tejano singer.

Krisanne Frost
Krisanne Frost, a well-known local artist and gallery liaison at Blue Star Contemporary Art Center, died December 6 from cancer at age 61 after being diagnosed just weeks prior. Born in Houston and raised in the Hill Country, she was an early resident in the Blue Star complex, and ran a gallery near the McNay Art Museum. For seven years Frost was the vibrant presence who met visitors at the Blue Star galleries, and the one visiting artists turned to when setting up their shows. Bill FitzGibbons, the art nonprofit's director, summed up the experience: "Krisanne was the smile and the welcome that greeted everyone that came into Blue Star."

Johnny Pérez
The drummer of legendary Sir Douglas Quintet, the '60s Tex-Mex rock band featuring Doug Sahm and Augie Meyers, died September 11 in Topanga Canyon, California, at age 70.

Jacques Barzun
Eminent historian, essayist, and educator Jacques Barzun died at his San Antonio home on October 25 at the impressive age of 104. Known for his boundless curiosity (which he claimed was acerbated by insomnia), he published his masterpiece, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present, in 2000 at age 92. Surveying the ups and downs of the last half-millennium, Barzun argued that we're sliding towards another crash that could result in "the liquidation of 500 years of civilization." But, praising the West as a resilient "mongrel civilization," a mélange of dozens of cultures, he predicted it would rise again. A founder of the discipline of cultural history, he was an authority on the composer Hector Berlioz and the history of ideas, but his interests ranged from baseball and philosophy to the detective novel. Born in Créteil, France, Barzun was sent to study in the U.S. at 12, going on to graduate from Columbia University, where he served as dean of faculty, provost, and university professor. Barzun moved to San Antonio, his wife's hometown, in 1996.

El Curro
San Antonio's premiere flamenco guitarist, and one of Texas' first, Willie "El Curro" Champion died August 18 of cancer. He's survived by his wife, Teresa Champion, and daughters Rosalinda ("Chayito") and Elsa, all three of them well-recognized local flamenco symbols in their own right.

A graduate from Fox Tech High School in 1954, he toured with renowned flamenco dancer José Greco for 17 years, appeared in John Wayne's The Alamo, and shared the stage with stars like Tony Bennett and Count Basie. He spent the last years of his life displaying his virtuosity (and his contagious smile) at the River Walk, where he performed for almost 40 years at Las Canarias, the restaurant at La Mansión del Río hotel.

Alex de León
Known for his barrio style, local artist Alex de León was mistaken as a folk artist before gaining critical recognition. The long time SA resident died December 7 at age 53. Born in the Rio Grande Valley, he attended Kansas City Art Institute and exhibited widely at galleries such as La Luz de Jesús, L.A. and Fergus Fernández, Houston. His design work was featured in TV shows and films including Six Degrees of Separation and Madonna's Truth or Dare. De León, known for his dark humor, was a 1996 alumnus of Artpace, which recently exhibited his work.

Felix Louis Stehling Jr.
Taco Cabana founder and "Bean Burger" inventor Felix Louis Stehlin Jr. died December 10 at age 85. Born in Fredericksburg, he was an avid fisherman who ran numerous night clubs and restaurants before founding the original Taco Cabana in 1978, which has since grown to a chain of 150 24-hour eateries.

RG Griffing
"I'm gonna sue your ass," is how Richard Gary Griffing began our last conversation this summer, just weeks before his passing from diabetes-related complications at age 61. After a pause, he let out a wheezy laugh. "Callin' me a shit-slinger in print … of course I'm a shit-slinger!"
That he was. Griffing had just picked his final fight with Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz, which fizzled when facts supporting his searing allegations (that Ortiz had been "popped for DWI" then driven home by a cop) never surfaced. With his infamous Drudge Report-esque San Antonio Lightning, Griffing flooded us with flashy headlines and a heavy dose of hard-right commentary.

Griffing also loved to pick fights, either as a long-shot candidate against mayoral candidate or while deriding public officials at the citizens-to-be-heard mic. Last year he shouted down the city's Ethics Review Board before security chased him out of his own hearing.

Easy to deride as part of SA's "fringe" (who the fuck gets to define "fringe"?), Griffing's obsessive picking at an issue could draw results. Without his early reporting of missing animals and unexplained deaths at the local Wild Animal Orphanage, the now-defunct operation may have never closed shop.

Chris Madrid
Walk into Chris Madrid's Blanco burger joint namesake, and you'll see he left behind a lot more than just delicious burgers. His smile beams through framed family photos scattered near the front of the parlor, his arms wrapped around wife, kids and grandchildren.

Madrid passed away this March at age 61. Known for his warm personality, Madrid took his restaurant from humble beginnings to a San Antonio culinary institution with his signature Tostada, Flaming Jalapeño, and Cheddar Cheezy burgers, which scored numerous awards, including routine nods from the Current.

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