Few of the Red Shoes are Better than Bacon readership may have known him, but one of the last of Morelia’s expats who hailed from The Greatest Generation transitioned to greener pastures two days ago.
Rocky Stoneburner, whose parents had named him Ivan, died at the age of 93 at his home in San Antonio, Texas, where he’d retired after decades of active life in Morelia. A Jack Mormon originally from Pocatello, Idaho, which he’d characterized as so desolate that jackrabbits would pack a lunch, Rocky headed off during his younger days to protect the Pacific Coast during World War II and then on to protect the ranks of the working man as a Teamster leader.
He never pretended to be an intellectual, but he was one of those kinds who just knew everything about everything. He knew his prices, he knew where to get the best deals in town, and he knew the movers and shakers in this town and all around. He was the kind of guy everyone needed to know. He could get a quick read on people, and he knew how to galvanize them. He could talk to anyone, from the humblest of the humble right up to the titans of industry. And he had the best manners of any foreigner around. He might not’ve been a scholar, but he was everyone’s gentleman.
Rocky may well have been the last man on the planet to willingly wear a leisure suit. And then there was his ball cap. He didn’t care; he dressed to suit himself.
There was a time in Mexico, back in the pre-Costco, pre-NAFTA days, when things like VCRs and German sausages weren’t easy to come by. Rocky could be counted upon to import and deliver exotic and rare items, reasonably priced, from Laredo, where he’d zip up in those pre-cuota days in his white Suburban just as casually as we might drive over to Patzcuaro today.
Want a referral to the best electrician in town? Call Rocky. The best chili recipe around? That was Rocky’s. And so was his barbequed brisket.
He knew construction, mechanics, electronics, and how things worked. He was blessed with the kind of magic that meant he could simply glance at something and make it work again. He had a power tool collection that was the envy of the community. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I borrowed his battery charger. From how to train a dog to you-name-it, Rocky knew, and he was generous with his opinions and expertise, always ready to help in any situation.
“You ought to be ashamed of yourself for letting your car get so dirty,” he would chide, shaming me into washing the car.
“Wear plaid or tan if you’re going to a Mexican fiesta,” he instructed, because they’ll undoubtedly be serving mole, and it’ll hide the stains.
For years, I carried a Costco card with Ivan Stoneburner’s name as the titular.
And then there were the horseradish plants he’d given my mother. Countless times I would try to eradicate them, but they persisted, nagging me to remember their origin. I’ve given cuttings of that horseradish to many people, so there’s still a little bit of Rocky growing all over Michoacán.
He is survived by his wife, Joaquina.
Rocky, you were a one of a kind. And you are missed.