Longtime city employee retires
By ALBERTO TOMAS HALPERN
MARFA – Longtime city of Marfa Public Works Director Robert Silva has retied after a lifetime of service to his community.
Silva began working with the city’s public works department early in life. “I helped them in 1961. I was 12 years old,” Silva said this week in his home, as humble as he is.
He explained that the utility superintendent at the time, Jack Dyer, who was also his baseball coach, would give him summer jobs with the city.
“I didn’t have parents. I was raised by my grandma,” said Silva. “He gave me summer work to buy shoes, gloves and stuff that I needed,” he said of Dyer.
At a young age, Silva worked unloading asphalt from freight cars. “The young kids did the shoveling,” he recalled.
Silva then worked with the city in an official capacity beginning in 1977 with Travis Self, the public works director at that time. After a brief hiatus, Silva came aboard with the city, this time in 1985 where he worked until this month.
“I was the assistant public works director from 1986 through 1997” after Dave Howard, director of public works, retired in 1997 and Silva was promoted.
“I’m forever grateful,” Silva said of Dave Howard and Jane Shurley, the city’s mayor at the time. “They had a big impact on my life.”
The decision to quit after so long has not been an easy step in Silva’s life. “My body is just falling apart. I had a spinal surgery last year. I’m blind in one eye. I’m fixing to be 64 years old,” Silva said sitting on his couch.
The wrinkles in his face and arms are deep. He’s worked hard his entire life.
“My tank climbing days are definitely over,” he said with some disheartenment. “The doctors have been telling me that they’ve done their portion and I need to start listening to my body.”
The idea to retire as a result of his health has been on Silva’s mind for the last few years. “I’d been thinking about it, but get back in the routine and start doing things.” This time around, he had to make the leap. “I’d never get myself to do. I thought, if I’m going to do it then I just have to do it.”
He said that what he will miss most of all from work is the daily interaction with the men he worked with for so many years; friends more than co-workers.
What Silva is most looking forward to in retirement is spending time with his children and grandchildren.
Silva expressed regret over his alcoholism in the past, keeping him from spending time with his family.
“I have 28 years sobriety now,” Silva said. He added that working hard for long hours was a way to help get through his affliction. “I wanted to be the best to my kids, so my job was always the forefront of everything. I wanted to be able to provide for them and do for them. I guess I really hadn’t spent that much time with my kids or grandkids.” That’s going to change Silva said. “I’ve spent very little time with any of them and I’m going to start spending time with them.”
While Silva is not going to be working at the city full-time, the town and public service he did is dear to him.
“My heart is in Marfa. I’ll still be around.”
Story filed under: Features