Brenda Villanueva remembers the day her son Joe told her, “Mom, if something happens to me, don’t cry for me. Just let me go and go on with your life.”
A week later, on Dec. 23, 2015, Joe passed away unexpectedly from an aneurysm.
But he left Brenda with one last surprise — he had signed up to be an organ, eye and tissue donor.
“At first, I couldn’t accept what he had done because we never talked about it,” she said. “But then I realized, wait a minute, he saved so many lives.”
Joe’s gift helped heal countless people. Brenda received a letter from one of the people he helped from his liver donation.
“The person who got his liver is now living his life with family,” she said. “He thanks me so many times in that letter.”
Giving the gift of life was a wonderful legacy to leave behind for a man who loved life to the fullest.
A love for the open road, Joe made a career as a truck driver. But when at home it was always about family. Joe was inseparable from his uncle John.
“Instead of uncle and nephew, they were more like brother and brother,” Brenda said. They did everything together.
Joe also adored his two sons, Joey Jr. and Jonathan, and tried to spend as much time with them as possible.
Most people remember Joe for bringing joy to those around him. He loved dancing to Tejano and country music, barbequing on the weekends and catching the Houston Texans games.
Most of all, Joe had a smile that would light up a room and a heart of gold to go with it.
“He was very helpful to everybody,” Brenda said. “Whoever needed his help, he would be there for them.”
Joe even found time in helping his church with community garage sales.
Joe’s positive outlook inspired the people around him, including his son Joey Jr., who wants to follow in his father’s footsteps as a truck driver.
For Joe’s birthday on Feb. 8, the Villanueva family remembers him by celebrating his life and his lasting legacy.
“I’m just proud of my son for what he did.”