LOS BANOS — Alvin Marques, who championed love of country and engendered honor and respect for the American flag, died Sunday. He was 88.
Marques was a Los Banos native. He served in the Army during the Korean War.
Marques' son, Steve, confirmed that his father's heart stopped about 3:30 p.m., before their traditional family dinner.
Steve Marques said his fondest memories of his father are tied to those dinners.
"It was a chance to talk and meet up with the kids and grandkids, and we've always liked to cook," he said.
Marques was born in March 1925. He grew up on a dairy ranch just behind what's home to the Los Banos Fairgrounds. However, it was his service to country that shaped his life.
Marques was drafted into the Army in 1950 and was stationed in Germany as part of the 4th Infantry Division. Marques was stationed where the Berlin Wall would eventually be erected. His job was to patrol the border of East and West Germany.
Marques drove Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower in his Army jeep, a proud moment he'd recount during his life with the knowledge that he was chauffeuring a future president.
Steve Marques said the military taught his father admiration for discipline, a trait he carried with him throughout his life.
Marques returned home after the war and went into the dairy business. Marques' agricultural background led to his selection as grand marshal of the May Day Parade in 2002.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion allowed Marques to share his love for America.
Marques was involved in establishing the Veterans Memorial Hall building in 1967. He visited city schools near patriotic holidays to teach children about the flag. He helped place flags in front of homes and businesses on the Fourth of July, Veterans Day and Flag Day, among other holidays. Marques also was part of an effort by veterans to supply flags for the city's fire engines.
In 2010, Mayor Tommy Jones gave a proclamation to Marques thanking him for 42 years of presenting the flag at high school football games as part of the VFW Color Guard.
"You have just been a role model and a mentor and everything I hope every young man can watch and grow up to model," Jones told Marques.
Steve Marques said the American flag was one of the most important symbols in his father's life.
Jess Medrano, a member of American Legion Post 166, said he witnessed firsthand Marques' commitment to Old Glory.
"He was strict when we did the marching. He'd make sure you'd step just right and the flag didn't hang too low," Medrano said.
Retired Public Services Director Joe Sousa spent a lot of time with Marques at events involving veterans and working on projects around town designed to honor veterans. He said he remembers Marques would lament how young people seem to not realize the importance of the flag.
Korean War veteran Norm Donovan knew Marques as a caring man who was there when his friends were in need.
"For the past two years while I've been (fighting) cancer, Alvin has visited me every week," Donovan said. "We would talk about a lot of stuff. Every time I was with him, we had a good time; nothing special."
Marques loved decorating the outside of his home with lights his son remembers piles of lights strewn throughout the front yard for Christmas, Notre Dame and Dallas Cowboys football, his family and the United States.
Sousa said Marques will be greatly missed.
"Alvin was like a Los Banos icon. The man had a true love of country," he said.
Marques is survived by his wife, Annette Marques; brother, Victor Marques; children, Mike Marques, Steve Marques and Lori Marques; and three grandchildren.
A visitation is scheduled Monday at 9 a.m. at Whitehurst Funeral Chapel, 1840 Center Ave., followed by a rosary and Mass starting at 10 a.m. at St Joseph Catholic Church, 1621 Center Ave.
Marques will be buried at 12:30 p.m. at San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery , 32053 McCabe Road Santa Nella.