Arthur Nagel’s Legacy
by Dan Wise
Arthur Nagel was not a wealthy man. He did not live in Bandera or have any particular ties to Bandera County. What he did have was trust in God and compassion for people who are suffering. And out of that compassion he left a legacy for low-income families in Bandera County that will benefit our community for decades to come, or maybe for generations.
The Helping Hand Board of Trustees had long dreamed of being able to build a medical clinic for Bandera County’s underserved population. At the dedication of Helping Hand’s new building on March 27, 2004, Board President Comellia Rue confidently announced, “Our next building will be a medical clinic.” But at that time, no one knew how that was going to happen.
Arthur Nagel was born in San Antonio in 1920. In 1941 he married Louise Bernice Jones in Johnson City. They had two sons, Gary and Bruce. The family moved to Hill Country Village in 1955, a small incorporated town north of San Antonio. Arthur Nagel was the town’s mayor in the 1960s and ‘70s.
After service in the U.S. Army, Nagel was employed at the G2 Intelligence Agency at Fort Sam Houston. He retired in 1972, after a 30-year career in U.S. Intelligence. Arthur and Bernice moved to Boerne in 1976, where Arthur immersed himself in community affairs. Twenty years later, the couple moved to Kerrville.
On a Hill Country outing in 2006, Arthur happened to stop in Bandera. While there, he learned that the County did not have a hospital, and that low-income families who didn’t have health insurance had no access to medical care within the County. Arthur was stunned. He went home that day feeling God’s presence tugging at his heart.
The next day he knew what he had to do. Within a week he was back in Bandera looking for a church and pulled into the parking lot at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church. There he met The Reverend Rick Dunham and told him simply that he wanted to establish a medical clinic in Bandera. Dunham, who knew about Helping Hand’s dream, took him to see Jesse Parks, Helping Hand’s Executive Director. The two of them hit it off immediately. Arthur Nagel told Jesse about his dream, which was also Helping Hand’s dream. When Jesse asked him why he chose Bandera, Arthur quietly told her that that was what God had led him to do.
The plan came together quickly. Arthur agreed to make an immediate gift of $150,000 to construct the shell of the building, with complete faith that other funding would follow. Helping Hand agreed to provide the land, and raise the other $600,000 required for the project. Arthur Nagel’s lead gift provided all the impetus that was needed. In less than twelve months Helping Hand had raised all the funds necessary to build the Clinic and operate it for a year. In their gratitude, the Helping Hand Board named it the Arthur Nagel Community Clinic.
Mr. Nagel died on August 5. 2010. My wife and I joined Jesse Parks at the memorial service in San Antonio. I did not realize until that day how significant Mr. Nagel’s gift was—to him. On a table surrounded by flowers was a display of family photos and photos of him at the dedication of his Clinic. To the right of the photos was a framed certificate from the Bandera Community Foundation naming him Bandera County’s Philanthropist of the Year.
When invited to speak, friends and family members, some in tears, shared their loving memories of this gentle man. Most of them told about his passion for the Clinic. His son Gary told us that his dad was unbelievably frugal all of his life. Offering a humorous example, he said that one day his dad came home with four cases of Spam. Why four cases? Because it was on sale.
Jesse Parks gave a moving eulogy by describing the times she had spent with Mr. Nagel during construction of the Clinic and after it was open. She said that those of us at Helping Hand and the Clinic are stewards of Mr. Nagel’s legacy. That the Clinic is saving lives today because Mr. Nagel passed our way. And like Mr. Nagel, we don’t have a dollar to waste. If we are to honor his spirit, we must use every dollar we are given to help the poor and heal the sick.