Family, LU community remembers fallen Cardinal Rosendo Varela ‘22

Talkative. Empathetic. Devout. Playful. Hardworking. Smiling. All of these words could be used to describe Rosendo Varela, who tragically died in a car accident prior to his graduation in August.

The Cardinal, who was slated to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, was soaring toward his next journey in life before it fatefully ended. His future was bright.

During the summer 2022 commencement ceremony, an empty chair was left for him. President Jaime Taylor also conferred his Bachelor of Civil Engineering that day, Aug. 6. The family then met for a small reception and to pray the rosary. Rosendo Varela

Rosendo was beloved by all that knew him — a fact that is clear as his sister describes him on the phone the Friday before he was set to walk the stage. Rosendo was ecstatic about graduating.

“He got his diploma I think it was like two weeks ago,” said Maggie Varela, Rosendo’s older sister. “He got so happy. Rosendo said, ‘I got it. Now, no one can take it away from me. I got it. I’m done. I’m so happy. I’m finally happy. I haven’t felt this happy in a very long time. I’m just happy.’”

Born in Baytown, Rosendo grew up in Liberty, Texas, the youngest of three children. According to Maggie, he loved playing saxophone, even at church. When he was in high school, he would skateboard. Rosendo played soccer, but not so much anymore, she said. “He didn’t have the time.” But Rosendo spent hours playing chess on his phone. It’s methodical. Like tracking the rosary beads between your fingers.

In his obituary, Rosendo is also described as a devout Catholic. “He would turn to God during hard times and pray a rosary every hour for nine hours to help in his time of struggle. He forgave quickly and was always a joy to be around.”

“His favorite thing (about being Catholic) was the closeness you could feel with God, through prayer, we have rosaries and things like that,” Maggie said. “So, when he needed a prayer or anything, he’d go online and find one and he’d be like, ‘Wow, it says exactly what I want when I don’t have the words.’ He loved going to church because he said it was exactly what he needed.”

Rosendo wanted to build things, his mom, Juany, said. Maggie is translating her quick Spanish.

“He loved the fact that he was getting to work on big projects, so that made him feel like he was going to make a difference,” Juany Varela said. “He always wanted to make a big difference.”

Rosendo was involved in many things on campus. He was a member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, former president of the American Society of Civil Engineers and an officer of its Steel Bridge Competition Team.

Rosendo VarelaHe will be remembered fondly by his Cardinal family.

“Rosendo was a kindhearted and intelligent young man. I am proud to say I knew him and that he was an excellent Lamar University student,” LU Vice President and Dean of Students Hector Flores said, noting that Rosendo was a member of two groups he advises, the LU Hispanic Society and the LU Chess Club. “He had numerous friends in both groups and was well known at Lamar University. Rosendo was an excellent chess player and came out to play at the Setzer Student Center and Sertinos Cafe with the club. I admit, I did lose a few games to him, but he was always humble about it. I really appreciated that about his character.”

Flores added, “After he passed, I reached out to his family to let them know Lamar University was a community, and we would be there for them. It was an honor to support the Varela family during this difficult time. I keep in touch with them to let them know we care––we all miss him greatly and continue to grieve his passing.”

One social media post said about Rosendo: “He could often be found in the Dean's Suite, showing new members of the team the design features of our model steel bridge and guiding them as they prepared for their competition this March. Rosendo was a wonderful student who always gave back to the Cardinal community with a smile.”

That’s what this story always comes back to — a smile. Rosendo’s smile. He was always smiling. That’s what the world will be left without. All that could have been built and his smile.

Maggie said, “Everybody’s going to remember that big smile he always had, laughing and joking.”