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Armando G. Martinez-Vargas, D.D.S.

Obituary for Armando G. Martinez-Vargas, D.D.S.

May 25, 1940 - May 4, 2018
Austin, Texas | Age 77


Armando Gaston Martinez-Vargas passed away peacefully at home with his beloved wife on May 4, 2018. His departure was in stark contrast to his arrival on May 25, 1940, in the aftermath of a magnitude 8.2 earthquake in Lima, Peru. The doctor - named Gaston -- braved the rubble and aftershocks to deliver him safely into an unsafe world. Armando's middle name honors that doctor.

The marriage of Armando's parents, Estela Rocca Barba and Cesar Augustus Martinez-Vargas, did not last and Armando was assigned to the foster home of Celia Munoz Saldana when his mother couldn't care for him full-time. Celia had a large house with various adult children of her own who all became his beloved "tias and tios," Julia and Chela, especially. He was well-loved and cared for by this wonderful family until he was able to return to his mother's home.

Maybe his seismic start to life marked him as a person who didn't mind shaking things up. This attribute was not appreciated in school settings so he was afforded the opportunity to try out many of Lima's academic offerings. For high school, he found a strong dose of discipline mixed with rigorous academics at Peru's military academy, Leoncio Prado, which he credited for most of his success in life.

After graduation in 1958, he attended the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos College of Medicine where he received his dentistry degree in 1964. He pursued post-graduate training in oral surgery. With a group of four fellow graduates, he started a dental practice and joined other medical professionals to create the Instituto Medico Miraflores.

Like most Peruvians, Armando loved to dance, party, and laugh – he excelled at all three. Among his other memories of those times, he long-remembered the adrenaline rush of aerobatics in a friend's Stearman biplane, the beauty of a condor in flight while he hunted in the Andes, and the sheer joy of dancing till the sun rose on a new year.

In 1973, he met Jeffee Palmer, an exchange student from Texas and, despite a few cultural and language hurdles, they married in Austin in 1974. They returned to live in Lima, but government unrest and concerns about its future direction led them to return to the U.S. in 1975. Armando found a place in Jeffee's extended family – he loved them all, but held his father-in-law, Eugene Palmer, in highest esteem, believing him to be one of the best men he ever knew.

Moving to the U.S. was difficult for him professionally. Along with improving his English, Armando had to pass various national and state dental board exams. Between exam-taking, review courses, and studying, he worked at a variety of jobs, the last one at a small shop on Guadalupe called Precision Camera. Despite Armando's lack of experience, its owner, Jerry Sullivan, offered to train him to repair cameras. With his knowledge of mechanics and a dentist's facility with working in small spaces, he was an able apprentice and enjoyed the work. Armando would repay Jerry in loyal patronage for many years.

America embraced Armando as a citizen on March 2, 1979. He was proud to be an American and said more than once that he didn't mind paying taxes in the U.S. because we got so much in return for our money!

In early 1982, Armando opened his dental practice and spent the next 30 years attending patients, many who became friends during the course of smile restorations and pain elimination. With his forceful personality, he was always stressing the value of flossing and reminding patients that the mouth was the gateway to the rest of the body. Many of them have reported that they can still hear his instructions and are still flossing! He retired from dentistry in December, 2012.

Photography was always a passion for Armando. A large bookshelf full of photo albums attests to his life-long interest in recording his family's life, as well as his many travels with his wife or sons. He filled many walls with photographs from Costa Rica, Peru, Russia, China and various European countries. He also loved cars, and anyone who ever rode with him at the wheel soon grasped that they would be arriving at their destination quickly. He raced cars for a period in his twenties and never got over it. Although many cars would come and go, his favorite would always be the Toyota Supra, which he would never sell, no matter how many offers he received. Money wasn't the point.

Raising his two sons and seeing them become Eagle Scouts, college graduates, upstanding citizens, and good human beings was his biggest source of pride. He relished being the father he didn't have and providing them the childhoods he never enjoyed. While he never skimped on lessons in discipline and good manners, Dagan and Dax were also his pals. They spent many hours together at malls, car shows, and other entertainments, but he especially loved taking them to the movies, rekindling fond memories of his youth at the Saturday matinee serials.

Armando survived a heart attack in 1989 beat Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2011, but heart disease, diabetes, and dementia gradually exacted their toll on him in post-retirement years. Even as his memory was failing, however, he could still recognize and appreciate being with family members including his two grandsons, Kyler (age 7) and Mazen (age 2). He was also able to give Kyler a few sessions of mambo lessons that have been recorded so Kyler can keep practicing.

Armando is survived by his wife of 43 years, Jeffee Lynn Palmer, son Dagan Martinez-Vargas and wife, Lea Ann, and son, Dax Armand Martinez-Vargas. He also leaves behind his two grandsons Kyler Allison and Mazen Ty Martinez-Vargas, cousin Fernando Otero, his family members, and godson, Jose Luis Vivanco.

The family would like to thank Dr. Fehrenkamp, his endocrinologist for over 20 years, and the other doctors who so patiently cared for Armando during his last years.

A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, May 19th, at 2:00 p.m. at Weed-Corley-Fish funeral home.

(Please click on the "Tribute Video" link above to watch Armando's photo tribute)

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Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home North

3125 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78705
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