News

Couple dies in 4-vehicle crash

Brinkleys changed the face of Rockdale
By MIKE BROWN
Reporter Editor

Rockdale is hurting.

A couple who helped change the face of the city—with numerous developments and business ventures over the past four decades—died Saturday morning in a four-vehicle collision on US 79 east of town that also seriously injured two Milano residents.

Wayne and Margie Brinkley were on the way to a track meet in Caldwell to watch their grandson, wheelchair athlete Dustin Strelsky, compete.

Wayne, 67, and Margie, 69, were pronounced dead at the scene, 1.5 miles east of Rockdale, by Justice of the Peace Rick Gommert shortly after the 9:30 a.m. incident.

DPS Sgt. David Yarbrough said Wayne Brinkley was driving a 2011 GMC Terrain (small SUV) eastbound.

He said a 2012 Ford F-150 pickup, operated by Barbara Avery, 60, was westbound, in front of a 2005 Ford F-250 pickup, driven by Robie Lawhon, 22, of Rockdale.

Yarbrough said the Lawhon pickup struck the Avery pickup on the side, pushing it into the eastbound lane where it was in “nearly headon” collision with the Brinkley SUV.

Yarbrough said a fourth vehicle, a 2009 Chrysler Sunfire, driven by Esteban Vasquez, 23, of Bryan, was eastbound behind the Brinkleys.

Vasquez took evasive action, went into the ditch and was struck by the Brinkley vehicle, Yarbrough said.

Barbara Avery and her passenger—husband Ian Avery, 70—were flown by medical helicopter to Scott & White Hospital in Temple where they remained early this week.

Yarbrough said all others involved—Law- hon and passenger George Tovar, 23, of Rockdale; Vasquez and passenger Alejandra Ibarra, 21, of Rockdale— were either treated at the scene or refused treatment.

Yarbrough told The Reporter the DPS won’t be ready until at least midweek to “draw any conclusions” on why the Lawhon pickup pushed the Avery truck into the other lane of traffic.

“Our investigation continues,” he said. “We’re looking at the physical evidence but we’re just not there yet.”

Yarbrough said no charges have been filed.

He said all persons involved in the crash were wearing seat belts.

Troopers Broderick Sims, Sgt. Yarbrough, Cpl. Erik Gaston and Falls County Trooper Josh Cashion investigated.

The Milam County Sheriff’s Department also assisted as did the Rockdale Volunteer Fire Department and AMR paramedics.

Yarbrough said portions of US 79 were shut down “off and on” for four hours because of the crash.

DEVELOPERS—The Brinkleys gave their names to Waymar Plaza, a landmark business development that included the former H-E-B building and the strip center anchored by Gatti’s Pizza.

But there was so much more. Brinkley developments and business ventures included:

• Rockdale Building Materials Center.

• Sonic Drive-In.

• The building that currently holds Cefco and Chicken Express.

• Brinkley Homes, with about 50 custom and speculative houses built over the decades.

• The building which currently houses El Corral Lozano restaurant.

• Apartment complexes at the corners of Cameron (US 79) with Calhoun and Summit Streets.

• Storage buildings behind O’Reilly Auto Parts off US 79.

PARTNERS—“When you talk about the Brinkley businesses, my dad and my mom were in everything together,” son Greg Brinkley told The Reporter.

“He did the financial part, getting the money to build and figuring everything out, and she did the books, paid the bills and a lot more than that.

“My mother and I cleaned up a lot of landscapes for those projects over the years,” Greg Brinkley said.

“And she’d continue to clean up our rental apartments herself,” he added. “We’d try to tell her that those things had been paid for 25 years, but she was going to do it as long as she was able. My mother still had that work ethic.”

Wayne Brinkley also operated Brinkley Electric, owning a master electrician license.

He also was a licensed peace officer, served as a Milam County constable and member of the Cameron

Police Department.

WAY MAR—Probably the most visible project of the entrepreneurial couple was the super market building which became H-E-B.

It opened as a Foodland in January, 1983, became a Super S Foods, then H-E-B Pantry Foods, then a fullfledged H-E-B.

Vacant since 2005, the building has recently been purchased by Little River Health Care and will become the site for LRHC’s Rockdale clinics.

The adjacent strip center was then built.

The development—super market plus strip center— was christened Waymar, using first names of the couple.

TOGETHER—When the accident took place, Greg Brinkley was in Canyon at West Texas A&M University watching son Ethan’s spring football practice.

The eight-hour trip back to Rockdale gave him plenty of time to reflect about losing both parents in an instant.

“You know, I don’t believe either my dad or my mom could have lived without the other,” he said.


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