Marta explained the family is planning the memorial service as a celebration of the short life they had with Esaw. Instead of mournful music, the funeral home will be filled with his favorite rock-n-roll tunes from the late 1970’s instead of sad Mexican music.
“That’s not Chick. He sure liked rock-n-roll,” said Marta. “He liked Black Sabbath. He liked REO Speedwagon. My brother had an old AC-DC picture booklet.”
Marta described her brother as a bit of a “free spirit.” He never graduated high school, but had lots of friends and never was afraid to prove he could do something when challenged. The hitchhiking trip started with two of those friends with a destination in Florida. But he continued alone toward Texas when his friends decided to return to Toledo. He had planned to either visit his cousin Miguel in Houston or his cousin Carlos in San Antonio. Miguel now lives in Toledo.
“He liked being with the boys, the guy cousins,” recalled Marta. ”He was single and didn’t have a girlfriend. He liked cartoons. He was still somewhat of a little kid because he liked cartoons. He also liked card games.”
At the time of his disappearance, Rodríguez lived with his mom in a house on Kenilworth near Cherry St. The home has since been demolished.
“He told us ‘A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do,’” Marta recalled just before he left on his hitchhiking excursion that would result in his death.
Decades later, Rodríguez finally will return to Toledo, too, in an urn his mother chose. Marta jokingly described it as a “flying saucer” for its unique shape. But she stated her mother Pauline is “holding up” and ready “for him to come home.”
The remains of Rodríguez arrived at a Texas funeral home for cremation last Friday. A cousin who lives nearby will drive them to Toledo where a memorial service is planned next week at Coyle Funeral Home. Rodríguez will be buried next to his father in Forest Cemetery.
Marta expects “quite a lot of people, family” to attend the memorial service, because her brother left behind a big family that has only grown over the years.
In January of last year, a team of Houston-area forensic anthropologists used a grant to reopen hundreds of files involving unidentified remains dating back as far as 60 years—including Rodríguez. The effort has made a believer out of both Marta and Sgt. Zavala that loved ones of missing persons can find answers.
Marta readily admitted she had only seen forensic science work successfully on TV crime dramas. But she hopes her real-life experience can help others.
“I have never read of a Latino or a Mexican family ever going through this before,” said Marta. “There may be one out there right now that might have something of their loved one—a hairbrush, a toothbrush—something that has their loved one’s DNA. Go and have it tested to see if there’s a loved one out there. DNA works.”
“Folks who have been touched by a violent crime, including missing persons--either as victims or family members--should always persevere and never give up,” Zavala told the Houston Chronicle. “Esaw was somebody’s child, brother, nephew, grandson and cousin and didn’t deserve to be murdered - nobody does - and all of those lives are touched.”