Editor’s note: This feature is dedicated to profiling Van Horn High School Alumni and updating locals on what became of them after graduation. The Advocate welcomes information for publication on VHHS Alumni and will try to highlight two Van Horn Eagles every week.
Van Horn “feels like” my hometown. In 12 years of public education, I attended 10 schools. Each one was so different from the others. My dad was the first State of Texas Highway Patrolman in all of West Texas, 1930. His Austin Headquarters did not want him to become involved in any community we lived in so he could be more objective in his law enforcement. Therefore, we moved every second or third year.
I graduated from my beloved Lubbock High School in May 1945. The next month I was inducted into the US Army, and took my basic training on the scorching hot desert of California. Our brutal training was for the invasion of Japan. In 1950, a short, skinny little guy standing in front of me, as we waited to go into a huge building in Pusan, Korea, turned to me and made some sarcastic and funny remark about the US Army. I laughed and he said, “I like you.” You thought that was funny, and it wasn’t supposed to be.” I then laughed even harder. We became friends. In fact, I’ve never had a friend like Matuse, and I never will. He was sent back to the combat zone, and I, to Eighth Army Headquarters. The day he was to leave, he came to me and said, “Matt, why me? Why? Why? Why? And Matt, what’s going to happen to Maria, his fiancée. I never saw him again and always wondered what happened to Maria? The dropping of those two atomic bombs, August 6 and August 9, 1945, saved my life.
I came back here to the States, returned to college classes and did post-graduate work in psychology and sociology. For 38 years, I taught psychology and sociology. I loved teaching those two subjects. My students were in my classes because they wanted to be, not because they had to be. I was so fortunate.
I retired in 1995, and the PASADENA (Texas) NEWS CITIZEN newspaper asked me to write a weekly column and oh how enjoyed writing for that Houston suburban newspaper. I cannot, for the life of me, believe I’m 89 years old, but as Aint Lizzy down on the family farm in the beautiful El Paso Valley would say, “That are the truth ifen’ (if) I ever done went and told it.” That old reprobate had a language all her own.
The newspaper I enjoy reading the most, though, is THE VAN HORN ADVOCATE. I just wish I lived in my beloved Van Horn so I could help Lisa now that my dear friend Robert Morales has passed.
I’ll end by stating in that horrible Korean War, my dream home was in Van Horn. I had a picture in my mind of a white house with a white picket fence. I could just see that beautiful little town nestled in the valley of those gorgeous, purple mountains. It was that vision that helped get me home. Van Horn has always meant so much to me; so very, very much and I consider it my hometown.
I always had an interest in science and my parents bought me a chemistry set when I was a youngster. Their first mistake was letting me use it in my bedroom because one of my first experiments was the rotten egg smell! The next day I had a small brick building away from the house as my lab. Many experiments were performed in that small building and the surrounding landscape over the next few years. After Mr. McAfee sparked my interest in research science in junior high and Mrs. Fisher let us explore science at Van Horn High (maybe a little more than was safe at times LOL), I decided that I wanted to become a research chemist. Since receiving my Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Dallas, I have worked in several industries in many different roles. I have created new product formulations while working in the hair and skin care industry (one product received a partial patent), researched and produced a line of aquaculture medications for a small pet products company, and developed innovative techniques to analyze the chemicals used to make semiconductors that allow detection of some contaminants at less than one part per trillion for world leaders in semiconductor manufacturing. It has been an exciting and rewarding career sparked and nurtured by the community and the school system of Van Horn.
I am currently the Director of Quality Control Lab for a company in north Idaho that produces high quality dietary supplements for medical professionals. We use all sorts of interesting toys to analyze our raw materials and finished products to determine that they are authentic, pure and the proper potency. We use instruments like time-of-flight mass spectrometers (TOF-MS), ultra-high performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC), inductively coupled plasma spectrometers and other sophisticated analytical chemistry techniques and equipment to look for things such as pesticides at the parts-per-billion level to make sure our products are not contaminated and are the safest we can make them. I have been a research chemist, a production chemist, a quality chemist and I have designed and implemented laboratories for several companies, invented products, invented new chemical analysis methods and programmed computers over my fortyish year career. It has been an interesting ride and it was made possible by the educational foundation I had at the Van Horn schools and my parents’ sacrifices and I will always be grateful for that.