16 March 2017
Residents of Lake Monticello and members of the Gray Foxes golf league said goodbye to their long-time friend and advocate, Emil Colmenares, 99, and observed a final tribute to his fourth wife, Margaret, on Saturday (March 11) at the Lake Monticello Fire House.
“It was beautiful,” said Carlton Colmenares, the sixth of Emil’s seven children, who drove from Hempstead, Texas, to celebrate the life of his stepmother, who died in January.
“A lot of my dad’s friends here at the Lake were very glad to see him and spent several hours with him,” he said.
Carlton Colmenares described his father as someone with “tremendous charm and fun. People flocked around him,” he said. “He swept Margaret off her feet because he was very gregarious.”
Margaret Ashley Kennon Colmenares found a zest for life in the handsome businessman whose enthusiasm and audacity made him an extraordinary salesman who was great at marketing. He had a contagious personality, too.
“What he told me is, when he first saw Margaret, he thought she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen,” Carlton Colmenares said. “She was the old-south-meets-back-east educated woman whom he just could not live without.”
Emil Colmenares agreed. “She was a very good businesswoman,” he said. “I loved the way she worked. I miss her. She was a very special person. [Losing her] hit me hard.”
According to her stepson, Margaret Colmenares was the balance, the ballast, to the ship that was his determined father. “She was very methodical, science-minded, logical, very organized,” he said. “And I think Margaret found in my dad a zest for life that was not anywhere else that she could find. For her he truly was an undeniable spark.”
While Saturday’s reception gave father and son the opportunity to honor Margaret Colmenares, the gathering also served as a fond farewell to Emil Colmenares, who will return to Texas with his son this week.
“He’ll be closer to family where his children and grandchildren can visit him more frequently,” the younger Colmenares said. “Right now, for anybody to try to visit him it’s a half day trip by plane. To try to get to him urgently would be impossible.”
In Texas, the elder Colmenares will live in an adult residential facility that is similar to the Laurels in Charlottesville where he’s lived a short while. “But this is a lot smaller with a lot more focused care,” he said.
Emil Colmenares, a successful home builder who hailed from Houston, Texas, retired to the Lake community 31 years ago at the behest of his wife, whose aristocratic beginning was in Charlottesville.
He said he cherished the opportunity to see everyone on Saturday. “Seeing a lot of friends, talking about what to do with this place in terms of golf programs, golf tournaments, has been good,” he said.
During his retirement at the Lake, Emil Colmenares continued to build homes and lifelong relationships as founder of the Gray Foxes golf league – and he paved the way for young people of all backgrounds to learn to love the sport.
He was also instrumental in making needed improvements within Lake Monticello’s golf facilities when the area was still developing.
Carlos Burns, who has lived at Lake Monticello for 33 years, has known Emil Colmenares most of his life and played golf with him. “He’s been great, great inspiration for young people,” Burns said of his friend. “He started the youth golf program here and ended up collecting clubs from everybody and he re-cut them and re-fit them for the young people. He could build golf clubs! But he was such a great citizen.”
An extraordinary showing of golf lovers – and people – on Saturday, like Tom and Lucille Braithwaite, Norma and Lou Kramer, Irene and Gerry Burke, Kitty Walker and Terry Peters, was proof of it.
Jean Bachman stopped by to see Emil Colmenares off with a big hug. “[Emil] played golf with my husband the first five years we got here to Lake Monticello every Friday. [My husband] George thought of him like a father,” she said.
His former housekeeper turned elder care companion and great friend of 13 years, Sheilah Melton, helped make the memorable day a success.
“I thought [the reception] went very well,” she said. “[Emil] really enjoyed himself. He was talking to everybody, he seemed to know most everybody. He was tired after it was over, but we all were. Everybody had a very enjoyable time and it made a lot of memories. He’s going to be missed because he did so much for the Lake.”
“I’m sure he has embellished some of his stories, or time has altered them to some extent, but there’s no denying my dad’s life has been of one of extraordinary talent and chutzpah,” said Carlton Colmenares. And in just a few days’ time, his dad’s great charisma and altruism will have the chance to light up Houston, Texas, the way it graced the Lake community.