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Ruben was born October 9, 1924 near Los Ebanos to the late Federico F. Zapata and Maria F. Zapata. He was the oldest of four boys. Ruben attended La Joya High School. When World War II broke out, Ruben was called to serve his country. He served in the United States Navy in the Pacific aboard the USS Calvert from 1943 to 1945 bringing relief supplies to Japan. When he returned, he attended the University of Houston. He married his wife, in Los Ebanos, Alicia M. Flores in 1949. They lived in Houston until 1954, when they returned to South Texas to settle in McAllen. Together they raised three children. Ruben worked as a television repairman for an appliance store until he was able to open his own shop in Mission. He retired in 1983 and he and his wife moved to "the farm" in Mission. They lived there until they moved back to McAllen in 1995. In 2008, they moved to Crowley's St. Francis Village. In 2010 they moved to Azle. They enjoyed traveling, he enjoyed his cattle and coffee buddies and walking.
Survivors include his wife, Alicia M. Zapata of Azle; son, Andy Zapata and wife, Genny of Azle; daughter, Nora Z. Montez and husband Fernando;son, Vito J. Zapata and wife, Karen; brothers, Ricardo and wife, Diane of Seattle, Wash., Reynaldo of Hollywood, Calif., Ramiro and wife, Mercedes of McAllen; one granddaughter; seven grandsons; and one great-granddaughter.