Born July 10, 1965 in Los Gatos, California to the parents of Cleo and Charles Villarreal, was the youngest and newest addition to the Villarreal family, Nathan Armando Villarreal. Eldest of the family was his brother Charles, followed by his sister Sonya, and then his brother Mark.
At the age of four, Nathan’s family moved from California to San Antonio, TX, where Nathan spent the majority of his childhood. Nathan's everlasting strength and positive capacity for handling all that life could throw at him began at a young age. As with any good sibling dynamics, rowdy big brothers made sure to live up to the "do what I say, not what I do" code of ethics, something that Nathan would later jokingly advise to his own children. Many stories of Nathan's childhood involve mischief, adventure, and love. From stuffing books in his pants before getting a spanking (as suggested by his brothers), to full blown ice cream fights (think velvet curtains and shag carpets...), to playing football outside with an upstairs window as the touchdown zone (that window broke), to rescuing a bloodhound puppy left for dead (who ended up thriving and was one of his favorite dogs), Nathan's childhood was always entertaining and at times truly unbelievable.
“ Many stories of Nathan's childhood involve mischief, adventure, and love. “
Amidst the whirlwind that was Nathan’s childhood, Nathan’s sister Sonya played the nurturing role and was his fierce protector. The two forever held a very special bond, a bond that lasted even after her untimely passing. Nathan’s innocence and pure heart was one of Sonya’s number one goals when taking care of him. Though the baby of the family, Nathan's heart was arguably the largest of them all. Nathan's love and excitement was palpable to all who met him. His love of music made that love and excitement even more abounding. Nathan’s voice was a gift. A gift that he shared with the world since the age of six. Performing in choirs and school plays, Nathan’s interest and passion for the performing arts continued to grow. Eventually, Nathan’s gift would touch the lives of many and all those who knew him. Many times, Nathan’s voice was the healing presence to those who were in both mental and physical turmoil. He would just sing and peoples worries, tears, hopelessness and loneliness would just fade away. His voice was comfort. His voice was power. His voice was compassion. His voice was love.
While still in high school, Nathan worked at his mother’s ceramics shop in Universal City, helping his mother with any task she needed. Another employee of his mother was also a music lover, Randy Robinson. Randy had the brotherly duty of introducing Nathan to his baby sister, Tammy Robinson. It was a memorable day the first time they met. She had just come to the ceramic shop from after band practice. A petite blonde haired and blue eyed girl, with a sunburn, braces, and braids. She was the prettiest thing Nathan had seen, and he knew then that she was someone worth fighting for. Her fiery attitude, astute poise and striking beauty was both amusing and intriguing to him. They were 15 years old.
“ She was the prettiest thing Nathan had seen, and he knew then that she was someone worth fighting for. “
The summer before Nathan’s senior year in high school, Nathan attended the UT Music Camp in Austin, Texas. He was slated to attend Judson High School and had achieved the highest accolades a student could achieve to begin his Senior year. At the time, Nathan had already met and been dating his future wife, Tammy, who had relocated to Houston. Nathan would travel to Houston to visit her as he could, which was pretty impressive with him being only 16 years old at the time. While at the camp Nathan interacted with students from the School for Performing and Visual Arts in Houston (HSPVA). He really enjoyed working with them and had great admiration for their talent. Shortly after, Tammy suggested he audition for HSPVA thinking it would really help grow his talent. He auditioned, and it was very unusual for them to accept a student at the senior level, as they like to nurture their talent really no later than the 10th grade. It was also unusual for them to accept him since, well, let’s say, academics were not Nathan’s highest priority at that age. He was accepted on the contingency that he maintain at least a C average. This was a struggle, as Nathan uprooted himself, moved to Houston at the age of 17, and was in charge of himself.
He left all of his friends behind, and jumped feet first into a whirlwind education. He stayed with his sister-in-law, Lisa, for one semester and then with a classmate the second semester. The academics were challenging as he was very behind, but that coupled with an enormous music course load was exhausting. There were many, many after school rehearsals and functions where his school performed. He had private lessons and extra assignments to get him up to speed with the rest of the group. He had the talent, but there was much to do. At first, he really hated it, and he thought his teachers hated him as well, but nothing could be further from the truth. They knew they only had one year with him and saw within him great talent, dedication, and commitment.
Nathan married Tammy at the age of 19 in 1985, and their adventures together had only really just begun. Through their early years of marriage, Nathan continued to pursue his love of the arts through performing for various companies and performance halls, print modeling, and even live mannequin modeling. In addition to his continued passion for the arts, Nathan worked various jobs as servers in restaurants, Al’s Formal Wear, and many other odd jobs .
“ Nathan married Tammy at the age of 19 in 1985, and their adventures together had only really just begun. ”
That following spring in March of 1989 on Easter Sunday, born 5 1/2 weeks early, Nathan and Tammy welcomed their first born, Celeste Rene Villarreal. She was blonde haired and blue-eyed just like her mother. But had a little speck of brown in her right eye, "a little piece of her Daddy", as he'd always say. In 1991 on April 26th, Nathan Armando Villarreal Jr. was born. With his dark hair and dark eyes, Nate Jr. was the spitting image of his father. In fact, Nate had the most hair. Hair was a controversial topic between the Villarreal-Robinson post birthing discussions. Then another two years later in May of 1993 Nathan had to have an emergency appendectomy. Two days later, after Tammy so graciously extended her due date, the Villarreal family welcomed their youngest member, Sarah Rene Villarreal on May 28th. She was beautiful, brown eyed and brown haired with skin as white as snow. At one point Nathan thought to name her Rosario Blanca, for white rose.
Nathan's children became the center of his existence and his family was the rock to which he stood on, leaned into, cried with, and laughed with throughout all of his years. What a rock that family would be.
In 1988, Nathan’s brother was shot and killed, in 1990 Tammy’s brother passed, and in 1995 Nathan’s sister Sonya was involved in a devastating plane crash in Georgia. She was airlifted to a hospital in Atlanta, she struggled to survive for almost 4 months, when she too passed. For those who knew Nathan and were fortunate to hear him retell his stories of each untimely loss, knows that no one can really put into words what sharing those stories of heartache and pain meant to him. For in each of these hardships, and times of extreme loss, Nathan’s hope in humanity, and passion to be a symbol of love in the world only grew, and was a message that transpired through him whenever given the opportunity. These experiences helped shaped the person who Nathan came to be, and it was a catalyst for all those who would one day be impacted by him.
“ For in each of these hardships, and times of extreme loss, Nathan’s hope in humanity, and passion to be a symbol of love in the world only grew, and was a message that transpired through him whenever given the opportunity. “
Impact. At the time of Sonya’s death, Nathan had been working as a Youth Pastor and worship leader for Mission Bend United Methodist Church (MBUMC) in Houston, TX. His work at MBUMC was one that to this day leaves a legacy in and of its own. Through mission trips to Mexico, Venezuela, and Honduras, Nathan’s ability to bring the healing gift of music, along with his ability to find joy and laughter in the simple things in life is something that is both humbling, and inspiring. Nathan always held such fond memories of MBUMC and often spoke of the impact it made on his life, through the people and the connections that were built there. After Sonya’s passing, Nathan started The Gift Ministries, where Nathan published and produced two albums. Someday Heaven and Impact. This is and will forever be a gift to all who knew Nathan. Having the ability to hear his voice uninhibited by time or presence is truly special.
“ Nathan’s ability to bring the healing gift of music, along with his ability to find joy and laughter in the simple things in life is something that is both humbling, and inspiring. “
Throughout the years Nathan was a man of many talents and hats. He was husband, father to his own children, father to the youth of the church, often a father figure to his nieces and nephews (known as Uncle Nate) as well as any neighborhood kids that would often stay over for days at a time, counselor to those grieving, mutual funds adviser, massage therapist, mentor, teacher, clinical nursing assistant, music director, actor, singer, and dancer.
In 2001, Nathan and his family made the move to San Marcos, TX. Though the hill country was quite the change of pace from the hustle and bustle of Houston, Nathan’s busy body noticed no such change. Commuting from San Marcos to Austin, Nathan continued his work as a mutual funds advisor for AIM. Nathan also promptly immersed himself in the theatrical world around him. Along with his family, Nathan could be seen performing and directing for the Wimberley Players (earlier known as The Greenhouse Theatre) and The Emily Ann Theatre, as well as theatres in and around the Austin and San Antonio areas. It was during these productions where many of Nathan’s second families were born.
A Nathan show was a different show. It was a true bonding and family experience. The creative energy that Nathan’s shows brought to audiences was magical. Early in every rehearsal process Nathan would emphasize the performance goal: to offer that moment of escape from whatever reality somebody may be living. No matter how small of an escape or how many people experienced that escape. Being able to give the gift of transporting someone to a different time and a different place even if only for an instant was so special and so rare. It was one of Nathan’s most powerful messages. Even if it was a single person, he would tell us that we had successfully done our jobs as performers. His captivating showmanship and dedication to character was one of genuine talent and substance. Whether he was director, assistant director, choreographer, or performer, Nathan’s heart was at the center of it all.
Before the opening of every show, Nathan would hold circle. The circle consisted of all members of the cast and crew coming together. It was an interlaced, arm over arm, hand in hand circle of pure energy. It was the time where he would encourage you to let go of whatever you were worried about or nervous about. It was a time where good thoughts and energies were sent around to every member. From one hand squeeze to the next, the energies would flow and grow. Then from a whisper to a huge roar the whole circle would chant a euphoric “Energy, Energy, Energy, Ha!.” The circle would burst with joy and excitement for what was about to be presented. On the roar the circle would unfold with every one spinning one another out, releasing them and their renewed and supported energy into the world. The circle was and will forever be special. Any and all who had the pleasure of working alongside Nathan knew that the theater was his craft and second home. It was a craft in which he fully embodied and shared with the world.
“ His captivating showmanship, and dedication to character was one of genuine talent and substance. “
Outside of the theater, Nathan was one of the most magical people to be around, especially during the holidays. Most notably Halloween and Christmas. Every Halloween, Nathan could always be found in full blown costume, sometimes even to the extent of disguising himself so well that his own children could not even recognize him! There was a streak where Nathan was a vampire probably at least 5 years in a row. Most notable was the “goth vampire,” it really excited him and it showed. Nathan was also THE GO-TO if you needed a last minute costume or a blood spattered setting. Years of theatre combined with Halloween frenzy equaled always knowing where your white can of hairspray was and how to use a pair of scissors. Nathan’s joy during these times of celebration was infectious.
Christmas was also special, always fun and heart-felt. Every year, Nathan would sing at Christmas Eve services. “Oh Holy Night” is and will forever be a staple of his. Christmas with his children was one of the most rewarding times. Through his elaborate “Santa” displays and plotted evidence of Santa and his reindeer, you never knew what Santa would do. For every year, that Santa was up to something different. One year Santa fell straight down onto the soot, leaving a print of his bum and footprints all throughout the carpet of the house. Another year, Santa was in such a hurry that instead of leaving back through the chimney, he left out the front door. Or at least he must have because near the front door in the entryway hallway was an upside down laundry basket with a dachshund puppy inside! Another year Santa left a note informing the children that Santa also liked other foods besides milk and cookies. The note said he also liked fried chicken, pickles, and even green and black olives! That Santa... what would he do next?!
“ Outside of the theatre, Nathan was one of the most magical people to be around, especially during the holidays. “
Throughout the years, Nathan continued to keep busy by obtaining his bachelor's degree in Human Resources from Concordia University in 2012. Nathan also worked as a worship leader and music director for a church in Geranimo, TX. It was in that position where Nathan developed a close working friendship with the pastor of that church. A working friendship that would eventually be the main reason for moving to Corpus Christi, TX in 2014. In 2012 , Nathan left the corporate world and decided to pursue a career in counseling as well as working as a Clinical Assistant in an Adult Intensive Care Unit at Seton Medical Center Hays in Kyle, TX. Eventually, after the move to Corpus Christi, Nathan continued his work as a Clinical Assistant by working at another hospital as well as a nursing home facility in Corpus Christi. Nathan did this in combination with his duties as musical director for Grace Presbyterian Church. In 2015, Nathan and Tammy’s marriage ended. Nathan and Tammy both made it a point to recognize their marriage ending for what it was and each aspired to remember the good that came of their marriage all of those years. Three beautiful children and an array of good times and memories remained in both Nathan and Tammy’s hearts. Though the two were not in constant communication, Tammy continued to be Nathan’s person of support. Even until the end.
If Nathan could tell you one of the best things to happen in his life, it would be the birth of his first grand-baby, his grandson, Nathan Armando Villarreal III. Nathan became Pawpaw in October of 2016 and eventual roommates in 2017. Nathan’s new role as Pawpaw was one that needed no rehearsal or preparation. His love and adoration for his grandson is more than words can say. Some of their most favorites things to do together included family outings to the beach, introducing him to new foods (including candy) and nightly cuddles with movie watching in Pawpaws bed. Throughout the journey of Nathan becoming Pawpaw, other new journeys continued for him. Nathan made many close and special friends in Corpus Christi, the majority of which were people he met through the church. Of those people, he also developed a close and romantic relationship to a woman he admired by the name of Irene. Though the two were no longer romantically involved by the time of Nathan’s illness, Irene remained a friend to him. A friend that continued to reach out to him, even when communication from Nathan himself was no longer possible. For that, Nathan’s family is grateful.
Nathan’s life was all too short, but he sure did make the most of it, hardly sleeping many days and nights because he had so much he wanted to accomplish. So it is with our hearts in our hands that we send him off with a standing ovation to the son, the brother, the husband, the father, the uncle, the pawpaw, the friend and so much more. The legacy of love left from our greatest showman will forever live and transpire to future audiences and cast members to come.
A final well done to our good and faithful servant.
Feel free to post about your favourite fond memories of Nathan below!