Angela Gerusa Leal was born on January 5, 1923 to the late Judge Joe E. and Rosa Weaver Gerusa. She was the second youngest of four daughters born to the judge and his wife. She was privileged in that her father was a successful farmer and a justice of the peace, which afforded him the ability to build their home. Furthermore, the Gerusa family owned two Model T’s, along with a generator for light, and they had the first telephone in Los Indios.
Angela attended school at Los Indios, a small school district that would eventually become part of the San Benito School District. Life was wonderful!
She was always surrounded with a loving family and music. Because her father was a graduate of a Musical Conservatory in Chicago, Illinois, he felt that music was important and provided his children with musical instruments, which they would play in the evenings.
At the age of 10, her mother, Rosa, was diagnosed with cancer. Her father then made the hardest decision of his life . . . to place his four daughters in a private school rather than have them watch their mother die slowly.
He placed them in the Methodist School for Girls in Pharr, Texas. She missed her father and mother terribly and many nights cried herself to sleep. In spite of this traumatic experience, it was there that her character was forged through confidence and determination.
Angela led a very structured life. In addition to attending school, she had numerous chores. By the age of 12, her mother was healed of cancer and later gave birth to the youngest Gerusa, another girl. Judge Gerusa became a strong financial supporter of the school for girls. He and his wife would often bring food and gifts.
After returning to Los Indios, Angela, briefly attended San Benito High School, before eventually graduating from Weslaco High School and becoming, along with her sister, the first Mexican American members of the Weslaco Marching Band.
In 1941, World War II was looming on the horizon for the United States. The nation was recruiting young men to fight for their country. Angela’s childhood sweetheart, the late Edio Leal, was one of those young men who volunteered to serve. On March 24, 1942, in the presence of her parents, siblings, and a priest, she became Mrs. Edio Leal. The couple left on a short honeymoon to San Antonio, Texas.
While her husband was away, she attended Texas Southmost College in Brownsville and majored in education. During the war, there was a shortage of teachers, and she was asked to teach in a one-room schoolhouse by the Superintendent of the Cameron County School District. There, she embarked on her teaching career. At the age of 19, Mrs. Leal was teaching students ranging in ages 6 to 19.
Life without her husband was difficult, but she survived the years by living at home with her parents. Again, her strong determination to serve and make a difference developed her character. Therefore, the idea of quitting under difficult circumstances was never an option she entertained.
In 1945, the United States claimed victory over the nation of Japan. Edio came home after flying 25 missions as a tail gunner in the European theater of war. Having saved their money, the Leal’s built their home, which still exits in Los Indios, directly in front of Gerusa Road. The couple had three children, a daughter born in 1946, a son in 1947 and another daughter in 1950. While establishing a family, Mrs. Leal managed to continue her education and teach school.
In 1954, after teaching in that one-room schoolhouse for approximately 11 years, she was offered the position as principal of the Los Indios Elementary School by Mr. John F. Barron, Superintendent of Schools. As a result, she has distinction of being the first Mexican American woman principal for the San Benito Public Schools.
During the 32 years as the Los Indios Elementary School principal, she continued her education and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Pan American University and her Master’s degree from Texas A & I University in Kingsville. She received an Administrative Certification and was also certified in Kindergarten, as well as Bilingual Education.
In 1974, the Los Indios Elementary School and the San Benito School District received the Freedom Foundation Award for the district’s unique Character Education Project. The Los Indios Elementary School, however, was the only school in the valley that received the award. During this time, Angela became a widow. Her husband of 29 years passed away.
Mrs. Angela Leal retired in 1986. She had faithfully served 43 years in the field of education. Before her retirement, she earned the principalship of the La Paloma Elementary School, while still principal at Los Indios. Desiring to serve, she volunteered her time to the children of Christian Fellowship Academy in Harlingen.
Throughout her life, Angela G. Leal experienced periods of adversity, but she persevered. The adversities only served to strengthen her character while forging it in the fires of self-reliance, self-determination, and self-confidence. These characteristics are still extremely necessary for today’s life-long learners. Mrs. Leal devoted her years of service to the San Benito School District because of her desire to see San Benito’s children succeed at every level of life.
On January 10, 2011, a committee named the new elementary school on FM 732 Angel G. Leal Elementary School. On June 06, 2011, Mrs. Angela Gerusa Leal passed away at the age of 88.