Hometown Heroes: Frank Nunez

By M.G. Angulo –

Frank and Rosalba Nunez.

What Frank Nunez most enjoys about his work is witnessing the marvels of nature, which he undoubtedly considers God’s work. The owner of Frank’s Nursery at 302 FM 359 in Richmond, Nunez spends his days caring for and selling his plants, flowers, mulch and garden accessories. And often he is struck by the naturally occurring patterns and colors on the plants. Combinations, he said, “only God can do.”

As he works with his customers each day – for whom he is thankful for their continued support and loyalty – he said always surrounding him is a gratefulness of God’s graces.

In 1997 Nunez opened his first nursery on 1 1/2  acres, which he leased in a different area of Richmond, but almost has to close the business a few times because it just was not profitable. “I was praying to God, and God always listens,” said Nunez, explaining that his faithful roots began with his mother and father in the village of La Luz in Michoacan in Mexico, where he was raised with 14 brothers and sisters. His parents, Nunez stressed, instilled deep within him the sacraments, obedience to God and the understanding that life is enriched by keeping God at the center.

“God gave me everything, and I give thanks to Him for everything,” Nunez said, listing his blessings: his wife, Rosalba; his three children Francisco Jr., Rafael and Ana Julia; his health and his successful 14-acre nursery in Richmond bearing his name that he opened in 2001. “He is the most important part of my life.”

Every year for the past 32 years, Nunez returns to Mexico for a religious pilgrimage when he works, prays and meditates on his life. Not just on his accomplishment of owning and operating his nursery – especially after a difficult start of financial, educational and language barriers – but also for the opportunities to help people. “Customers always come looking for solutions, and I love helping them,” Nunez said.

His desires and opportunities to help people, however, is not limited to his time at the nursery. As an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church, Nunez consistently devotes himself to his fellow man.

“Sometimes people think deacons because of their title are supposed to be served,” said Nunez, who is a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Rosenberg. “No. Our job is to serve people.”

Deacons, he explained, visit homebound senior citizens and make frequent visits to hospitals. They are involved with baptisms, funerals and Mass. They also provide marriage preparation counseling, all of which Nunez has done, and for the past six years, Nunez has also ministered to prisoners.

The time spent in the prisons is an equal exchange, he said. They learn from him and he learns from them. While he provides them with the gospel, spiritual guidance and support, they remind him of the importance of his calling to serve others – the need to share compassion, understanding, love and guidance. “They are waiting for us when we come to the prison,” Nunez said.

Sometimes they wait with anger, pain and fear in their eyes, but, Nunez stressed, he also sees hope mixed in with those emotions. And he is adamant about giving it to them.

There was once a 19-year-old prisoner to whom Nunez ministered. He asked the young man why was he in prison instead of furthering his education or shaping his life. The man told Nunez that both his mother and older brother were in prison and that he didn’t know his father.

Another young man told Nunez, “I am here because of my father.” When Nunez asked him to explain, the prisoner said his father had asked him to deliver drugs. “When the prisoner is a child, it breaks your heart,” Nunez said, adding that often the stories he hears are lacking of compassion and support. “So I tell them: ‘We need to look into your past and do something different.’

“I learn a lot of things from the prisoners,” he said. “They think God is punishing them, but they need to understand that society is the one punishing them. I say ‘God already forgave you, but you have to pay the consequences of society.’”

Nunez tells people, not just prisoners, the importance of self-forgiveness, being humble and accepting the presence of God into their lives because “a life without God is empty.”   He prays not only for himself and his family, but everyone he comes into contact with is a daily addition to his life.

“I pray for all of my customers, the poor and the people in need. Sometimes we just look at the material things in our lives,” he said. “We should look to the things, not on the ground, but above us.”

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