Hurricane Harvey took many things from Galveston County. Homes and property. Irreplaceable objects and a sense of safety from nature’s threats.

It also took lives.

According to Galveston and Harris County officials, there were eight local deaths that were attributed to Harvey. Some of the victims drowned, some of them died because of secondary effects, such as loss of power.

The Daily News has reported these names before, but in an effort to account for all of the effects of the storm, reporters reached out to friends and family members to paint a more complete picture of their lives.

These are parts of their stories:

Mary Avila, 80, of Texas City

Mary Avila was born on Galveston Island, and lived there most of her life. She spent 23 years working in the kitchens at the American National Insurance Co.

She never missed a day of work, her son, David Kiamar said, even when heavy rains meant she had to wade through knee-high water to get to the American National tower after being dropped off downtown by her regular bus.

“She still made it to work,” Kiamar said. “She was real dedicated about it. She went up and did her work.”

Avila died Aug. 29. The Galveston County Medical Examiner’s Office said her death was due to heart failure. Kiamar said the heart failure occurred after flooded streets made it impossible for her to be transported from a nursing facility in Texas City to receive dialysis treatment.

Avila had spent the last 12 years of her life in a nursing home after being partially paralyzed by a stroke, Kiamar said.

His mother’s resilience through her medical difficulties taught him that “women are stronger than men,” Kiamar said.

Her friends at the nursing home called her “Queeny,” and would crowd into her room to watch their favorite television shows with her, Kiamar said.

“She was sweet,” Kiamar said. “She always had a big smile on her face. She wasn’t like a bunch of other old people that are mean and grouchy. She was always happy and smiling all the time and making other people laugh.”

She was survived by four children, 12 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Clevelon Brown, 64, of Dickinson

Clevelon Brown died Sept. 3 after contracting an infection from floodwater.

He was born in 1953 in Galveston and was a Dickinson resident since 1976, according to his obituary.

Brown retired from Coburn Supply Co. after working there for 40 years, his obituary states.

Brown is survived by his son, sister, three grandchildren and two nephews.

Patrick Hurley, 59, of Dickinson

Patrick Hurley was always smiling and laughing, his stepdaughter Laura Olvera said.

“He just was a great guy,” Olvera said. “He treated my mom wonderfully and treated me like his own child.”

Hurley was retired from the U.S. Air Force and worked for the Texas Department of Transporation at the Galveston ferry at the time of his death, Olvera said.

He had many interests, Olvera said. Among them, Hurley enjoyed golfing and building model boats and planes, she said.

Hurley drowned Aug. 27 while awaiting rescue at his home, which was flooded.

“Everything he did was for everyone else,” Olvera said. “He didn’t really think of himself.”

Ruben Jordan, 58, of Friendswood

Ruben Jordan was a beloved coach, who had just started his life in retirement.

A native of Tyler, Jordan coached Clear Creek High School’s track and field team for 29 years, including 18 years as the head coach. He retired in 2016.

During his career, he coached the Wildcats to eight district championships.

He also taught social studies at the high school, and was the owner of the Friendswood Driving School.

“Ruben is one of the most beloved coaches or teachers that has ever come through Clear Creek ISD,” Clear Creek Independent School District Athletic Director Debbie Fuchs told The Daily News in August. “His friends are endless.”

Jordan’s body was found on Aug. 29, hours after a frantic social media campaign began to recruit people to help him. He was last seen three days earlier, on the Saturday before the heaviest rains began to fall. Jordan had perished in the floods, according to reports.

A campaign to raise money for a memorial scholarship in Jordan’s name has raised more than $11,000.

Bobby Murphy, 54, of Dickinson

Bobby Murphy’s friends only half-jokingly thought he was a “wise guy,” just like the name of his beloved band.

“He was a smart aleck,” childhood friend Nadine Lewis said. “He took life with a grain of salt. He was quite the clown.”

Murphy was a lifelong musician and played in several bands before his death. In 2009, he formed Wiseguy, a band that generated a following around the county, bandmate and friend Matt Hopkins said.

“Everywhere we went, everybody knew Bobby,” Hopkins said.

Murphy was also a paraplegic who devoted his time to helping others, Lewis said. At one point, he even took in a few homeless friends and helped them get clean, she said.

“He was always helping,” Lewis said. “He really appreciated that he was so high-functioning and disabled. He volunteered a lot different places.”

After the accident that left him disabled in the early 1990s, his friends visited him in the hospital, Hopkins said. As part of a different band together, Hopkins, Murphy and others were supposed to be playing at Galveston Mardi Gras sometime after, and Murphy didn’t want to give up on the performance, Hopkins said.

“‘He looks up and says, we’re still going to do the gig right?’” Hopkins said.

The band rallied together and performed as planned, Hopkins said.

“That day was probably the proudest day of his life,” Hopkins said. “He was just smiling ear to ear. He lived to play that gig.”

Murphy drowned in the floods Aug. 27. He is survived by his son, also named Bobby Murphy.

“Out of all the guys I’ve played with, I think he’s the most courageous and strongest,” Hopkins said. “Whatever band I play with, I’ll always carry his spirit and I’ll always carry a piece of him with me in whatever I do.”

Bonnie Parsutt, 69, of Santa Fe

Bonnie Parsutt died Aug. 27 after her home in Santa Fe lost power and a supplemental oxygen system failed.

Parsutt and her late husband, Alfred, owned two Galveston establishments, The One-Eyed Jack and the Twilight Lounges, from 1975 until 2000.

Her family told the Houston Chronicle she was a dedicated Elvis Presley fan.

She was survived by two sons and a daughter, nine grandchildren and a large extended family.

Peter Pellerin, 83, of Dickinson

Peter Pellerin loved his church.

A few years ago, he moved from Houston to be closer to Dickinson’s Queen of Angels Catholic Church, which performed worship services as traditional Latin masses, said his nephew Brad Richard. He helped manage the church’s bookstore for many years.

“He was just an extremely devoted parishioner,” Richard said.

Pellerin drowned on Aug. 27.

Sometime about 4:30 a.m., as his home was flooding, Pellerin left and tried to reach Queen of Angels, Richard said. He had a key to the building, and may have been seeking higher ground in the church’s balcony. His car was swept off the road, Richard said.

“He didn’t make it too far away from the house,” Richard said.

A veteran of the Korean War and a retired accountant from the Smith Oil Tool Co., Pellerin never married, but he was devoted to his family, Richard said.

“He was very, very family oriented,” Richard said. “He was the baby of the family, and he would talk to other members of the family multiple times every day. It’s one of the great losses of this, my mother doesn’t get to talk to her friend anymore.”

As a testament to his character, hundreds of people attended his funeral service on Sept. 11, Richard said.

Ronald Lee Zaring, 82, of Friendswood

Ronald Lee Zaring was a salesman, so he never met a stranger, his son said.

“He was the neatest person,” his son Devin Zaring said. “He was a super nice guy; everybody loved him. He would give you the shirt off his back.”

Born in 1935 in Nevada, Mo., Ronald Zaring grew up a country boy. He enlisted in the Navy in 1953 and joined the Submarine Service, according to his obituary.

After serving in the Navy, Zaring became a salesman in the medical supply industry, Devin Zaring said.

Zaring was an avid golfer and had a passion for playing the trumpet, his son said.

A resident of the Friendswood Healthcare Center, he died Aug. 29 while traveling to a medical facility in Huntsville. His actual cause of death is still unknown, Devin Zaring said.

Zaring is survived by his wife, daughter, son, sister, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

Samantha Ketterer: 409-683-5241; or on Twitter at @sam_kett

Senior Reporter


(2) comments

Jules Lauve

Thank you for these reminders.

Donna Fraley

I agree with Jules....thank you for posting.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.