A lasting impact | News
In the hearts of many Tulancingo residents, the late Pleasanton resident Bob Athenour now has a permanent presence in the sister city community of his hometown in Mexico.
Tulancingo city leaders, along with members of Athenour’s family and a local delegation from the Pleasanton-Tulancingo Sister City Association, launched a new memorial last month to honor the former teacher and community leader affectionately known as “Señor Bob” – a life-size bronze sculpture of Athenour seated on a park bench.
“On the day of the unveiling, the outpouring of love for Bob and appreciation for all he meant to the city was evident and visible,” said Dick Stafford, PTSCA committee member and wheelchair donation coordinator. of Rotary.
“City officials and service clubs, including Rotary clubs, Lions, Soroptomists and of course Sister City, were all in attendance, along with eight members of Bob’s family,” Stafford told the Weekly. “But what stood out to me the most was the number of families from Tulancingo with children who showed up. Sometimes going back three generations, they were all there with pride to applaud the unveiling of the statue in the honor of the man they affectionately called Señor Bob.”
PTSCA President Jorge Victoria was also part of the Pleasanton group that traveled to Tulancingo from April 21-27 for the delegation visit which included the commemoration of Athenour, who died in 2020 at the age of 91 .
Victoria told the Weekly that the event represented “recognition of the sincere love and respect that Bob had for Mexican culture and his ‘home’ Tulancingo. You could feel their sincere appreciation, love and respect for the rapprochement of our two cities.”
JJ Parra, a member of the PTSCA committee who acted as an interpreter for the delegation, noted: “On three occasions when I had the opportunity to escape and walk around the square, many locals were taking photos with our Señor Bob. Plus they all read the plaque describing who he was, what his life’s work entailed, and his love for the communities of Pleasanton and Tulancingo and their close ties.”
“Señor Bob’s legacy is strong, as demonstrated by his family’s significant participation in the ceremony,” Parra said. “His children, their spouses and their children were active participants and added a touch of family continuity in support of Señor Bob’s vision of exchange and multicultural understanding.”
Athenour was a retired Spanish and French teacher from his alma mater Amador Valley High School who operated a successful travel agency during his second career when he helped establish the sister city relationship between Pleasanton and Tulancingo , a city in the Mexican state of Hidalgo.
Athenour and property manager Steve Noble traveled to Tulancingo and met with city officials in 1983, laying the groundwork that would lead to the agreement establishing the sister city relationship that thrives to this day.
The most recognizable aspect of the program are the adult delegations and exchange students who learn about each other’s cultures every year – except for breaks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the impact of the relationship and Athenour’s influence stretched much deeper.
“Over the years, Bob’s philanthropic interests and his love for the people of Tulancingo have come together to provide much-needed help during difficult times,” Stafford said.
“From raising money to help the city after a disastrous flood in 1999 to providing more than 1,500 wheelchairs to those who could not afford them, Bob…has always been there to help,” Stafford added. . “The wheelchair program was one of his special projects, and through his leadership in Sister City and the Rotary Club of Pleasanton, he was able to build working relationships that brought the life-changing gift of mobility. to hundreds of people.”
The tradition continued in Athenour’s honor last month as the Pleasanton delegation, in coordination with local service groups and the Wheelchair Foundation, handed out another free set of donated wheelchairs to those who need them. needed in Tulancingo.
“This trip, like all delegation visits I have attended, was unique and special,” Parra said. “The distribution of wheelchairs, the visit to the girls’ house (asilo), the visit to the university and the faculty of medicine and the discovery of another plaque dedicated to Señor Bob in another area of the city reserved to notable citizens of Tulancingo. It showed how much the city of Tulancingo embraces one of its own.”
Victoria added, “Bob’s sister city heritage is one of caring, understanding and acceptance of cultural differences around the world and community service at home and abroad.”
Tulancingo, Mexico is located in the state of Hidalgo, in a valley similar to Pleasanton, 75 miles northeast of Mexico City.
There are many Toltec/Aztec and pre-Columbian buildings as well as a cathedral built in 1528. It is a modern town, but not a tourist town, according to the Pleasanton-Tulancingo Sister City Association.
Major industries include textiles, including premium yarns and woolen yarns, cashmeres, embroidered garments, household goods, and general trade. Cheese is another popular export product for Tulancingo.
To learn more about city-to-city relationships, as well as the association’s annual Youth Ambassador Exchange program and fundraisers in Pleasanton, visit ptsca.org.