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Business & Economy Coronavirus Featured

COVID-19 claims an El Paso father, son and their family business

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As members of the Medina family walk through their shuttered auto body shop in Central El Paso, the memories come flooding back.

For 41 years, the Medina family owned and operated Superior Body and Paint Shop at 3512 Dyer, a shop that provided El Pasoans with quality auto body and paint work for several generations.

Now, the shop is closed, another victim of the pandemic.

The family is planning to sell the long-time business that stood as a beacon of integrity and a place where someone down on their luck could get some help and maybe even some lunch.

Family patriarch Alfredo Medina, who ran the shop for 35 years, died on Nov. 27 at age 74 after contracting Covid-19. 

Alfredo and Irma Medina in their early dating years. (Photo courtesy of Margarita Dominguez)

His third child, Julio Medina, who worked full time at the shop since 1991 and ran it after the elder Medina retired for more than six years, also died from Covid on Dec. 9 at age 47.

Now the family is dealing with the emotional fallout of losing two of their loved ones, as well as closing the business that has fueled their dreams, forged their identities and values and helped them impact the community for the better.

“This little shop provided so much to all of us,” said Daniel Medina, the youngest of five children and now an assistant principal at an El Paso high school.

“It put a roof over our heads,” he said. “It provided an education, college, private school. It gave us everything it can.”

Medina family members leave the paint booth at Superior Body Shop on Saturday. Everyone in the family remembers the paint booth as a special place that they would come to talk to their father, Alfredo, and later their brother, Julio, as they worked through the many stages of painting a car. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

The shop also taught Daniel and his brothers and sisters many life lessons that are now being passed on to 13 grandchildren.

“My dad was a hard worker, never complained, never made excuses, honest, very kind, very loving,” Daniel said. 

The shop helped the Medina brothers and sisters “develop our character, working in the sun, working in the cold,” he added.

Since their father’s death, the family has heard from many longtime customers who tell stories about Alfredo Medina’s kindness, his generous spirit and his willingness to help people who were having trouble paying for their car repairs.

Freddy Medina, the oldest son, is now a Border Patrol agent, but he spent many years working in the shop when he was young and while he was going to college.

“It obviously hurts losing this business,” Freddy Medina said. 

He remembers how both his father and his brother, Julio, would want to help people.

“My brother would help people walking by,” Freddy said. “‘Hey, do you have anything to eat?’ He would take them over to Whataburger (next door) and buy them lunch. Both my dad and brother would do that.”

Julio Medina had a tradition of cooking for his employees at the body shop on Fridays. (Photo courtesy of Margarita Dominguez)

The shop also had a reputation for doing quality work at a fair price, Freddy said.

“Honest – they both were like that,” he said. “They didn’t make a killing off the job. They’d make a profit but it was an honest profit. There was a quality that went into their work, and that ended up costing them more in terms of production. A lot of shops probably skip out on that when they do their work; they didn’t.”

Freddy Medina says that the family’s faith in God is helping them get through the tremendous loss they have experienced in the past few months.

“I was an atheist some time ago,” Freddy said. “Now, I believe in God whole-heartedly, without a shadow of a doubt.”

Nancy Medina said her husband, Julio Medina, who died of COVID-19 in December, was an extremely hard worker who oversaw every detail of his body shop. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Irma Medina, the wife of Alfredo Medina and the family’s matriarch, said in Spanish that she is very sad but also comforted that she got to live and experience her husband’s dream of  opening his own business and raising a family together.

“Her greatest satisfaction is the legacy her husband left, the love that he had, the passion that he had for his business, his family, his kids, for the community,” said daughter Margarita Dominguez, who translated for her mother.

“He never held back on helping anyone out,” Margarita said, while translating the words of her mother. “He was a great father, an amazing husband and a great example to his grandkids.”

Margarita Dominguez is emotional as she looks at a decades-old newspaper clipping about the body shop founded by her father, Alfredo Medina, in 1979. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Margarita, the second oldest child, had her own memories of her father, brother and the business that meant so much to their family.

“My father, even though he had polio when he was 5 years old, it never slowed him down,” Margarita said. “He had a hard time walking, but that did not hold him back from loving, from caring, from being there for all his kids’ events – orchestra, basketball, football. Whatever it was, he was there faithfully.”

“My brother (Julio) was like that too,” she added. “He was always there for his daughters.”

Nancy Medina married into the family and has been dealing with the loss of her beloved husband Julio.

Members of the extended Medina family gather at the body shop that belonged first to Alfredo Medina and then to his son, Julio. Both men died of COVID-19 in late 2020. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

She too feels a flood of emotions as she walks through the body shop and thinks about her husband, father-in-law and what the business meant to the entire family.

“There were so many memories, so many events that took place here, even if it was just morning coffee or breakfast,” Nancy said.

Her husband ran the shop for several years while her father-in-law was transitioning to retirement and then officially for the past six years.

“My husband was a social butterfly; he was a people person,” Nancy said. “He loved to talk to people, not just here, but everywhere he went. 

“He made friends easily,” she continued. “He was an amazing husband. He was a true, true loveable girl dad. He lived for his daughters. He was a good friend. He was an amazing brother. He was an extraordinary son. I can’t say enough about my husband.”

Irma Medina sits in the office chair at Superior Body Shop in El Paso. She worked on accounts and paperwork for many years alongside her husband, Alfredo Medina, before he retired and passed the business to their son, Julio. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Isabel Perez, the fourth of five Medina siblings, was particularly close with her brother Julio, since they were only three years apart in age.

“Our entire family is close,” Isabel said. “But with him, we were so close in age. We were always going to school together. We went to the same elementary school, and then moved on to the next school.”

“We laughed a lot and did a lot of stuff together,” Isabel said. “I have a lot of great memories of my brother. He grew up to be a great dad, just like my father. That was the legacy my dad left his boys, to be that good dad and be there for the children.”

Isabel, who is a school counselor at an El Paso elementary school, said her father always encouraged all his children to get an education.

“He would always say, ‘I work; you study,’” Isabel said. “He’d say, ‘I don’t want you to worry.’ Every time I had an installment (payment) for school, dad was ready.”

Now, it is the family’s strong faith that is keeping them going.

“One day, we will all be together,” Isabel said. “I know my dad and brother are better off than us; they are in heaven. For now, we will keep working. That is until the Lord calls us and we will go. But for now we will keep planting those seeds (to continue helping the community).”

Cover photo: Daniel Medina stands outside the body shop that was founded by his father, Alfredo, and later owned by his brother, Julio. Alfredo and Julio both died of COVID-19 in 2020. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

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Dave Burge

Dave Burge has been a journalist for more than three decades, including the last 19 years in El Paso. He is an inductee into the Fort Bliss Wall of Patriots, honored for his work reporting on soldiers and military issues.

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