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South Texas Living

The humble life of artist Carlos Rios

The humble life of artist Carlos Rios
Carlos Rios in the U.S. Army during World War II

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Rainy Days and Starry Nights
February 26, 2014

Carlos Rios is an artist who lives in Floresville. When I say artist, I mean he is a really great artist!

Carlos is 91 years old, and has been painting with oil, acrylic, pastel, and also carving and engraving since coming home from the Army after World War II in 1946.

Carlos was born in the state of Coahuila, Mexico, in 1922. He was one of 10 kids. His father owned a ranch. They left Mexico in 1928 when Carlos was 6 years old and came by train to San Antonio, where his uncle met them at the train station. They stayed at his uncle’s house for a while until they got the money for the sale of the ranch in Mexico. With that money he bought a grocery store on Leona Street. Carlos helped in the grocery store while he went to school, graduating from Tech High.

Carlos liked to draw when he was a child, copying cartoon characters in the funny papers from the San Antonio Light. He joined the U.S. Army when World War II started. He was in the Normandy Invasion, and spent three years in Europe, first going to England for a year of training.

Marian Koogler McNay was an artist who inherited her father’s fortune and built a beautiful estate in San Antonio on Broadway called Sunset Hills. In 1943 the San Antonio Art Institute was started at Sunset Hills in conjunction with the San Antonio Art League. In 1946 commercial art classes were added for the benefit of World War II veterans.

Carlos came home from the war and saw an ad in the newspaper about San Antonio Art Institute starting classes for veterans. He entered one of his paintings, was accepted, and went there for three years, using his G.I. Bill from 1946-49.

Carlos said Marian took him under her wing while in the school. One day she told him she was going to send him to the Chicago Art Institute to study. He was very shocked and surprised. Then she wrote him a check for $1,000 to travel there and get started. That surprised him even more.

He left San Antonio on the train for Chicago, and, on arriving, got a room and started to art school that fall. He used his G.I. Bill to go to the school. Marion always wrote him, asking how he was doing and sending him money. She didn’t write letters, she sent him telegrams, and always signed them “Mom.” Marion always treated him like a son.

When Carlos’ G.I. Bill ran out, he still managed to go to the Art Institute, taking classes and working nights in a factory.

After he graduated from the Art Institute in Chicago, he worked for a number of companies in Chicago and San Antonio. He went to work in 1968 at Handcraft Engraving in Dallas. It was there that he learned to do engraving because the owner offered to teach him the engraving machine. He worked there for 20 years, retiring to Floresville in 1988.

His boss really liked him and respected his talent, and allowed him to come in at 4 a.m. before work and then after work at night he could stay as late as he wanted, and that is when he worked on his engraving. All those years Carlos created some awesome carvings and engraving.

As I sat there and looked around and listened to Carlos talk about his love of art, I wondered why he never married. So I asked him why.

He said after he graduated from high school he went to work to help support his family. Then the war started and he was in the Army, first going to England for training for a year. He met a girl from Ireland named Pauline. She was working at a munitions plant. Although she was too young -- she was 15 and he was 20 -- the Normandy Invasion started and he went to war. Three years later the war was over and he went back to the States. He always wanted to send for her, but he didn’t have enough money. They wrote letters, but soon she told him she was going to marry someone else she met, a soldier from Canada. Maybe she gave up hope that he would send for her. They wrote each other for several years after that, but then the letters stopped. He never heard from her again.

He still paints, mostly portraits, and stays busy exercising with the equipment which fills up his living room, and listens to his music with his surround-sound speakers. Carlos is healthy and spry at 91 and takes care of himself. He walks often at Pecan Park, and one day walked 9 miles around the park. He said, “I could have walked to Poth and back!” Carlos is a celebrity and doesn’t even know it!

Lois Zook Wauson is the oldest of eight children who grew up on a farm in Wilson County in the mid-20th century. After many years living in other parts of Texas, she now lives and writes in Floresville. Her two books are available from the Wilson County News office. Email her at

Your Opinions and Comments

Lois Wauson  
Floresville, TX  
April 10, 2014 4:47pm
That is a beautiful poem. Carlos has a wonderful attitude about life - he is so very positive - His glass is always full of joy! And it "runneth" over! I lived meeting him and writing the story about him.

Elaine K.  
April 10, 2014 4:46pm
It is definitely his positive attitude, in addition to his talent, that I find simply amazing! It is wonderful that we have such people in our midst.

Lois Wauson  
Floresville, TX  
April 10, 2014 4:36pm
That is a beautiful poem. Carlos has a wonderful attitude about life - he is so very positive - His glass is always full of joy! And it "runneth" over! I loved meeting him and writing the story about him.

Elaine K.  
April 10, 2014 9:51am
I just love this story, and I just love the enthusiasm that Mr. Rios has for life! His positive attitude shows in this poem that was published in the Wilson County News on Feb. 5! Here’s to you, Floresville By Carlos Rios The ... More ›

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