Auto shop owner paid off an employee's mortgage so the Vietnam veteran could retire
By CATHY FREE | The Washington Post | Published: November 15, 2019
Auto mechanic Albert Bringas, 69, was spent after long days on his feet looking under car hoods and pulling apart transmissions. His back ached in the evenings.
"I was getting more tired the last couple of years," said Bringas, who for 13 years worked at Renown Auto Restoration in San Antonio.
He calculated he would work six more months, pay off his mortgage and then retire. The Vietnam veteran was counting the days until he could spend more time with his wife and grandkids and also give his body a rest.
His boss, shop owner Rudy Quinones, knew Bringas — the oldest of his 13 employees — wanted to retire.
"I never had any issues with him, ever," said Quinones, 52. "But I could tell that his age and the physicality of the job were starting to take a toll."
So last month, Quinones called Bringas into his office and put forth a question: "If we took care of your mortgage, would that allow you to retire?"
Bringas was not sure he heard his boss correctly.
"I thought, 'Are you serious?' " Bringas said. "But he was. He really did want to pay off the rest of what I owed on my mortgage."
One week later, shortly before Halloween, Quinones accompanied Bringas to his bank and wrote a check for $4,986 to pay off the loan he had taken out with his wife, Sylvia Bringas, almost 24 years ago. The story was first reported by San Antonio station KENS5.
"It was something I could do for him that would make the biggest difference," Quinones said.
After years of faithfully making monthly $880 payments, the Bringas' three-bedroom, 1,500-square-foot home was officially paid off.
"I gave my boss a hug and told him, 'Sylvia is never going to believe this,' " said Bringas, who has two adult children and two grandchildren.
He said it is not the first time he has seen Quinones go out of his way to help his employees.
"If somebody is down on their luck and needs a loan, Rudy is there for them," Bringas said. "And if your car needs some repairs or you need parts, he'll take care of it. He has a big heart."
In turn, Quinones said he admired Bringas' work ethic, which is why he trusted him to open the shop at 6:30 every morning in preparation for restoring and repairing vintage Mustangs, Camaros and Corvettes.
Quinones also knew Bringas and his wife had helped raise their 12-year-old granddaughter and were now helping to look after a new grandson, who is 2 months old.
"I wanted him to enjoy more time with his family," he said. "He's worked hard, and he deserves that."
At work, Bringas was known for rarely missing a shift. Tinkering with cars has been a passion of his since he was 10, when his godfather first showed him how to take apart an engine.
"I've always loved taking apart a car and putting it back together," he said. "The most recent one I worked on last month was a light blue '67 Mustang. I changed everything - the engine, transmission, AC, electronics, you name it. What a beautiful car that was."
Bringas' fellow employees recalled a few other special qualities at his retirement party in the shop's showroom on Oct. 31.
"He could sniff out doughnuts wherever they were, and he'd always grab the doughnuts with the sprinkles on top," said Quinones. "So at the retirement roast, one of my employees gave Albert a container of sprinkles. Now he can use them on his doughnuts in retirement."
Bringas said he will miss those early morning doughnuts, but not the 5 a.m. "wake-up call" from his alarm clock.
"I feel emotional when I think about what he did for me," Bringas said. "When something like this happens to change your life, you never forget."