More to the Story

Published 11:11 am Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Texas man who died in Panola County crash was hard worker who hoped to become American citizen soon.

The Texas man who died tragically in Panola County on Sat., Feb. 18, when his truck crashed through the side of the concrete bridge that spans the Tallahatchie River on Interstate 55, left a much bigger legacy behind than just an untimely death.  

Carlos A. Perez, 50, was doing all he could to support family back in Mexico, working as a scaffold builder, traveling throughout the United States for a Port Arthur, TX-based company.   

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Carlos was also a card-holding union insulator, which would keep the money flowing when scaffolding work was slow – and also typically would put his vast skill set to use in communities with local refineries.  Time spent in the military also lent to his good work ethic.

“Carlos adored his family in Mexico,” said partner and best friend of nearly 10 years, Bobbi Jo Christine, who was devastated by his passing.  Bobbi Jo hails from the small town of Robinson, Illinois, where she and Carlos had met while he was there for work. 

He had managed to maintain a 12-year marriage during a span when he was able to “make the money he needed for his children’s education,” Bobbi Jo recalled, although it eventually ended.

Carlos had three children living in Mexico, including two sons and a daughter, although while he was tirelessly working in the U.S. he lost his eldest, Cesar, to leukemia at the age of 18.  

Cesar aspired to be a professional soccer player, and he was very good.  “It broke Carlos’ heart.  He never recovered from that loss, but he knew he had to for his other two children,” said Bobbi Jo.

His misfortunes didn’t stop there, as he also lost his mother to stomach cancer and his father when he was struck by a vehicle in a crosswalk.   

“Carlos was plagued with nightmares,” Bobbi Jo said.  “He never could take care of his own health.  He was too busy to do that.” 

But he had long since become accustomed to coping with hardship, which eventually would lead him to become even more driven.  “When Carlos was younger he lost sight in one eye,” 

Bobbi Jo said, “so he did everything to overcome his handicap.”

No stranger to adversity, after obtaining a work visa Carlos was compelled to improve his English, mostly because each and every new job required that he be tested.  

Bobbi Jo laughingly credited his quick progress with the English language to American television and film – particularly the Marvel Spiderman franchise.

It was Bobbi Jo too – a teacher’s assistant who taught reading to third-to-fifth graders – who eagerly helped Carlos, because a better line of communication also helped grow their relationship. 

“We got to know each other the more he learned.  He was brilliant.  He learned very quickly,” she said.  “He was such a sweet, soft-spoken man.”

Carlos had been preparing to start his application for becoming a U.S. citizen.  “His attorney had already begun the paperwork, and he had paid to have his daughter come to the states, to also become a citizen,” Bobbi Jo said.

Although he suffered a tragic fate, Carlos’ hard work was not in vain, as he was able to put his younger son Jair through college, and he now enjoys a career as an architect.  

“He overcame everything,” said Bobbi Jo of Carlos, whose daughter America just recently graduated from secondary school – as pictured in the corresponding photo.

Bobbi Jo is still close with her dearly departed loved one’s family, and maintains contact.  “I am very close with them. They are all very polite,” she said.

Another silver lining to the heartbreaking story, is that the cause of the I-55 accident is said to have been due to an aneurysm or heart attack, suggesting that Carlos never suffered, as his truck penetrated the inside barrier of the northbound lanes and plunged into chilly waters, which were moderately high due to recent rainfall.  

“Carlos was coming home to me.  His birthday was that Friday and mine was the 5th of February.  He had just turned 50 years old,” said Bobbi Jo.  “I’m still grieving my loss but am more concerned for his family.  His ex-wife (Marilu) is concerned for me.  She tells me all the time that Carlos and I were soulmates.” 

Bobbi Jo felt the urge to express to the Panola community that her beloved Carlos was not just an ill-fated motorist and passer-through, but also a complexed, accomplished family man, whose legacy still thrives, and memory lingers in the minds of many.

“He was my heart and soul,” she said.