I am an Elk - Meet Larry Cobarrubia
From the Hill Country of the Alamo to the shores of the Gulf Coast, wherever he may roam, he makes a home.
Larry Cobarrubia is quiet and blends into the background. Not that he is unremarkable, but he does not like to bring attention to himself – unless there is a carnival ball involved, but that is for later in the conversation. The son of Josephine and Frank Cobarrubia, Larry is the baby of eleven siblings: four sisters and seven brothers. He was born in the city known as the “Cradle of Freedom” located in the shadow of the Alamo - San Antonio, Texas. Raised on the West Side, Larry was not a mischievous kid but was part of what his brother, Juan, named “The Hoodlums.” “I was smart enough not to join the real gangs,” Larry said. Instead, he and his friends skateboarded and played street football, often with a flat football.
Moving around San Antonio, Larry went to Alamo Heights Junior School where in the seventh grade he began running cross country, specializing in the mile as a long-distance runner. Soon, Larry was tapped to join the varsity team, the “Mules,” even at that early age. Later, he played soccer for the Douglas MacArthur High School “Brahmas,” where he was the rover for the team.
During his high school years, Larry worked various jobs but recounted one in particular, “I worked for H-E-B, a Texas grocery store chain. I started as a bag boy and worked up to the meat department. I learned how to butcher in a two-month program they held at the warehouse.” Larry eventually moved into the seafood department, managing that for a while. “H-E-B,” Larry explains, “Started with the grandmother [Florence Butt] selling vegetables. It became so popular that the son [Howard E. Butt] quit his job to help.” In 1927, that initial store expanded into the store that is well-loved throughout Texas and bearing the initials of the son, H-E-B.
Why is it important that H-E-B be mentioned? Because that business donates five percent of its annual pretax earnings to charities in the areas of its operations. Larry did not know it, but at the time, he was already helping the community through his work.
Following high school, he moved on to Jim’s Coffee Shop where he began working as a sous chef. Owned by Jim Hasslocher, who also ran Frontier Enterprises, Jim’s Coffee shop gave Larry his first taste of what he thought he intended to do for a career. He also served as a waiter but decided cooking was his passion. “I didn’t want to serve tables. I mean, I made good money, don’t get me wrong. But I wanted to be in the back,” pointing over his shoulder as if he were still at the restaurant. So, he started at the restaurant atop the 750’ tall Tower of America, the tallest building in San Antonio, where he became a chef.
Volunteering always meant something to Larry, and it led him to meet Stephanie, his wife of 25 years. He had several friends in law enforcement from Dallas and San Antonio. Those friends were going out one evening and needed someone to watch the kids. So, Larry volunteered. As the women were gathering to leave the house together, Larry caught a glimpse of Stephanie and was immediately smitten. “I saw that black skirt and red top… I was like, oh yeah, I’m marrying her,” he says. Larry and Stephanie got married in 1998 while still living in San Antonio.