Born in July, 1942, in Corpus Christi, TX, to Victoria Caballero Ornelas and Pedro Ornelas, he met and married the love of his life, Sarah, in April of 1963.
A Tejano music pioneer, he started his career playing in that coastal cradle of Tejano music with Pablo Garza, Freddie Martinez, Isidro “El Indio” Lopez, and Oscar Martinez.
As a young boy, Raul and his sister Beatrice used to sneak into GI forum meetings to hear Doctor Hector Garcia speak. This would be the basis of his strong democratic beliefs and his proud voting record. If there’s MSNBC in heaven, you can bet he’ll be tuned in to Rachel Maddow in the evenings up there.
Raul joined the Army. After being caught playing his commander’s personal snare drum after hours, his mischief turned to fortune as he was quickly recruited to join the Army band, the gig of a lifetime. He toured the world as a percussionist, vocalist and band director for 22 glorious years. Along the way he played for Presidents, Vice-Presidents and dignitaries far and wide. He once backed Loretta Lynn in North Carolina, and played alongside Willie Nelson in Austin, TX. With the 76th Army Band combo in the mid-80s, Raul was part of the first-ever U.S. military band to perform in the Soviet Union. On the Fourth of July, the five-man combo played “God Bless America” in the U.S. Consul General’s residence in Leningrad, and in the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Moscow, to an audience of representatives from more than 50 nations.
Counting many residences around the world in Korea, Okinawa, Japan and Germany, he also lived stateside in KS, IN, NC, LA, VA, and CA, before retiring out of Ft. Hood, TX. Though he was incredibly humble, he was easily the most interesting man in any room. He had a story for every occasion and never once met a stranger he couldn’t make laugh. He was well-known for being a world-class pitmaster, and shared his famous barbecue and “Chico’s Chicken” with everyone along the way.
He is preceded in death by brother Tomas (Cristela) Ornelas, and sisters Maggie (Baldemar) Cantu, and Lydia (Manuel) Ramos.
He is survived by his devoted and loving wife of 59 years, Sarah Ornelas, and daughters Nora Arellano (Jose) of Temple, TX, Rachel Ornelas of New Orleans, LA, and Terry Woodroffe (Daniel) of Austin, TX; his beloved grandchildren Lisa Creamer (Patrick) of Andover, KS, Christina Arellano (Roberto) of New Braunfels, TX, Marissa Arellano of San Marcos, TX, and Ethan Woodroffe of Austin, TX (with whom he had a great love of watching train videos with); adored great-grandchildren William and Olivia Creamer; sisters Beatrice (Jimmy) Hinojosa, Frances (Henry) Garza, Yolanda (Chris) Alonzo, and Yvonne Ornelas; his close cousin, Fernando Ornelas, and many, many loved cousins, nieces and nephews.
Special thanks to the staff and team of the V.A. hospital for their above-and-beyond care and support.
Dad always said he was an ordinary man who lived an extraordinary life, and his large, loving family can attest to that truth.
Visitation at Scanio-Harper Funeral Home in Temple, TX, Wednesday, June 30, 5-7 p.m., followed by a rosary at 7 p.m.
Funeral services will take place at the funeral home on Thursday, July 1, 2021, at 10 a.m. followed by burial at Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen at 1 p.m. The 1 p.m. service will be livestreamed via the funeral home’s website at www.scanioharperfuneralhome.com