Jose Angel Hernandez, beloved son, brother, uncle, brother-in-law, cousin, nephew and friend, died unexpectedly on January 14th, 2022 in his home in Austin, Texas. He was 57 years old.
Jose Angel leaves behind his parents, Lydia Hernandez of Dallas, Texas and Jose Hernandez and his wife Lupita Hinojosa of Humble, Texas; sisters Gerri Hernandez and her partner Torkil Heggstad of Brooklyn, New York and Christie Hernandez and her husband Mark Pearson of Dallas, Texas; his cherished niece Maya Pearson of Huntsville, Texas; his goddaughter Nydia Martinez of San Antonio, Texas; numerous aunts, uncles and cousins in Texas, Colorado, Missouri and Washington; a large circle of friends and colleagues in and around the Austin area many of whom consider him family; and his beloved four-legged companions Lenny and Twinkie. He was preceded in death by his two other companions Soc and Murphy.
Jose Angel was born in Abilene, Texas. The family moved to Arizona for a few years, then returned to Texas, living in Austin, Anthony, and eventually Dallas. Moving to Dallas was a dream come true for Jose as he was now in the same area as his beloved Dallas Cowboys. Jose worked for a few years at Texas Stadium with his dad (also a huge Cowboys fan) where they would usher at games so that they could see the Cowboys play and get paid to do it.
Jose attended schools in Abilene, Arizona (Mesa), Austin (St. Elmo and Zavala Elementaries), Anthony (Anthony Elementary), and Dallas (Hood Middle School and High School for Health Professions). In Austin, Jose played Pop Warner Football. In high school, he was managing editor of the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) newspaper and a voting delegate at its national conference.
Like many high school students, he worked as a retail cashier for Kroger in Dallas. He also worked briefly at Mercy Hospital in Laredo, Texas while spending one of the many summers together with his first cousins at his tio and tia’s home. There, he learned first-hand about compassion which led to his servant leadership traits. Be the one who is compassionate, always!
After graduating from the HSHP, Jose attended Richland College in Dallas and The University of Texas at Arlington before transferring to The University of Texas at Austin where he received his Bachelor of Arts in English. He lived with his sister Christie for one year in an apartment a few blocks down Oltorf from where his family lived when they were children.
While attending UT, Jose participated in the Shakespeare at Winedale summer program in 1988 and 1989. He loved trading baseball stories with the program’s director, helping people with their sewing, and performing. His breakthrough role was Snout from A Midsummer Night’s Dream for which he decided to sing all of his lines in his beautiful baritone voice. Years later, when participating in the Winedale reunion plays, he wowed the crowds again with “Sigh no More, Ladies…” as Balthazar in Much Ado About Nothing and killed it as the bear in the filmed version of The Winter’s Tale. Jose kept up with many Winedale folks at an annual caroling party he hosted for years at his house on Washington Square and even played Santa Claus for some of the parties in more recent years.
In the early to mid ‘90s, Jose also made a name for himself in UT’s library system serving as a Serials Assistant (where he enjoyed working with binding repairs), Clerical/Office Assistant and eventually as a Library Assistant I for the Life Sciences Library, the Physics Mathematics Astronomy Library, the Balcones Library Service Center, the Engineering Library and the University’s Center for Transportation Research. He also worked at the Mean Bean and as a bakery assistant at a German bakery pursuing one of the many loves of his life, baking and cooking. He would never leave Austin, choosing to make his favorite city his permanent home.
Eventually he would leave the library system to work in theater full time (one of his true passions), becoming a founding company member of Austin’s Rude Mechs in 1996. He performed in shows like curst & Shrewd, War, and Prometheus Unbound. Later, he was often the Stage Manager for Rude plays both in Austin and on tour. He toured with Lipstick Traces and Get Your War On to places like Salzburg, New York City, and Helsinki and did a long stint at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Jose loved The Off Center and it was common for him to show up with donations of picnic tables, lumber, flats, and mic stands left over from SXSW parties or film shoots. And he was always quick to help with food at benefits or celebrations from crawdads to cheesecakes.
Like most artists, he had doubts about the sustainability of a full time theatre career. A colleague at Rude Mechs suggested that he work part time in film to supplement his income. As a theater purist he was reluctant to delve into pictures although in time, he was convinced to accept his first film gig as a location permitter. He was a natural.
Equipped with a keen artistic sensibility, and shrewd canniness, he swiftly became one of Austin’s premier location scouts and managers. It was kismet that Jose, a lifetime Longhorn, began working with UT’s Burnt Orange Productions on “The Cassidy Kids” & “A Mighty Heart”. His career continued with iconic Texas film darlings such as “Machete” and Academy Award winner “Boyhood”.
Over the next few decades in the location department, he became a beloved figure in the Austin Film Family. Not only was he admired by his peers, but he also nurtured and mentored countless aspiring filmmakers that would go on to be the next generation of Austin Film. Through his success, he remained true to his community and love for the arts. He knew everyone, and everyone loved him.
In recent years, Jose was a vital member of Plaid Pony Productions, one of hundreds of production companies that he worked with throughout his career. But location and venue management was such a small part of what he brought to Plaid Pony. He was their mascot and cheerleader, parking ninja, permit guru and always quick with a one-liner. He was an instrumental part of their crew, and his light and humor reminded them every day why they got into this business. He shared years of insightful knowledge, experience, and showed unwavering tenacity when faced with the most daunting of tasks. From any set in film, TV, commercial or photography or the many live events–he was always the first to arrive and the last to leave. It was easy to see how well loved he was when you could enter any restaurant, building, property or even random piece of land across Texas and everyone would know his name. The film commission even joked that they wanted to list him as their online Production Directory. Jose would always laugh and say maybe if he ran out of work one day, he would consider it! He shared wonderful moments like this with many across this great state and beyond. Crews near and far are grieving right now, but no doubt will wholeheartedly ensure his legacy lives on. May his memory be cherished by all who had the pleasure of knowing him in the film and production community. “The Ponies” will miss their “Grumpy Pony” and promise that the “Grand Cone Award” will live on in his name and honor.
Jose was also a member of the Tamale House East family. He never really applied to work at Tamale House. He just saw the need, put on his apron and showed up. He had experience, he said, as his family had a restaurant in Abilene. Loved and adored by the employees as well as their customers. If they didn’t know him already, they became fast friends. Jose never complained when the days were long and hard. He would simply do the work that needed to be done with kindness and grace. He often would play Mariachi music really loud and sing and dance, making everyone join in as he reveled in his gente and his cultura. Weren’t we all magnificent? The Tamale House East family saw Jose as a peacemaker, a bridge builder, a problem solver, and a brother. His generosity was legendary. Through many successful careers and a richly lived life, he ended up right where he started—in a small Mexican restaurant, surrounded by family he loved and who loved him right back.
Jose had a puckish grin, indeed a puckish bearing, that signaled to his innumerable friends that he was going to tease them or make them laugh and that issued a challenge for them to try to return the favor. He was a bon vivant, a raconteur, a fount of knowledge, a gourmand, and a stellar performer.
Jose was a huge sports fan, the kind that can hold a most obscure stat in his head and easily recall it at any given time. He was a huge fan of the Boston Bruins, the Boston Red Sox, the San Antonio Spurs, El Tri and the Dallas Cowboys. But best of all he loved the University of Texas Longhorns. Whether it was hosting a gathering at his house or a tailgating party near the stadium, he brought all his talents to bear and everyone always had a blast.
In addition, Jose was an avid comic book collector growing up. Later in life, he collected sports jerseys, baseball caps, and tennis shoes. He was a Cheech and Chong fan, a Marx Brothers fan, a music fan, a know-it-all movie fan (often quoting lines from movies with his sisters much to the dismay of anyone watching with them), a black-and-white and war films fan, a concha connoisseur and he loved his Herrera’s #17 Chicken.
Above all, Jose cherished his friendships and loved his family immensely. He and his sister Gerri spoke multiple times a day and texted even more. He stayed close to his parents and was sad to have not seen them as much the last two years because of the pandemic. He shared his love of theater and production with his little sister Christie and her family. He was so proud of his niece Maya and had even introduced her to his production world when they worked together last summer. Jose shared his love of sports with his brother-in-laws Mark and Torkil and he cherished all of his pets who loved him unconditionally.
A Catholic memorial mass will be held for Jose on Wednesday, January 26 at 10:00 AM at his childhood church, St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church at 126 Oltorf St., Austin, Texas 78704. Honoring his fierce commitment to keeping his parents safe throughout the pandemic, masks will be required in the church and we request you socially distance within the congregation. In addition, the family requests that if you are feeling ill or have recently been around someone who tested positive for the virus, that you opt to stay home. The mass will be streamed on the church’s website. Visitation with his immediate family will not be possible at this time. The family hopes to plan a larger memorial when the weather changes and we can gather outside safely to remember his life.
Mijo, Jose Angel, Joe, Tio Joe, Jose–we will miss you deeply. We were so lucky to have spent quality time with you the week we lost you. There will be a large gaping hole in our lives and the lives of many who loved you and relied on you. Losing you has been a shock to us all. We love you and will miss you forever.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Jose’s name to Austin Pets Alive, Shakespeare at Winedale, or Casa Marianella.