Shoppers paused in sympathy, some tearful, as they entered Kingwood’s Kroger Grocery on North Park, July 6, and noticed a memorial table to honor the life of Hector Nieto. He will be remembered as a dear friend to loyal customers and coworkers, and for his expertise in all things wine and food.  Nieto was the charter employee of this signature store who developed the unique role of wine connoisseur for 11 years, drawing from his life-long knowledge of the art of spirits.  “He had a passion for his job, customer service and selling wine. I loved his stories about life, traveling, and adventures like emigrating to the U. S. from South America on a motorcycle,” said Jeff Bailey, store manager.  “His love of wine made him as good as he was and he wanted to share it with customers, taking great pleasure in how he helped them by translating his awesome knowledge to a level where the average person would understand,” remembered son Andrew Nieto of Littleton, Colo.  “My father owned planes, a few personal and business, had several Harley Davidsons, and owned 41 Mercedes Benz automobiles during his lifetime,” he said. “Even though he was 80, he lived a full life, head-strong as a mule, upbeat, courageous and a proud, strong individual.”  Born and raised in Rosario, Argentina in the wine country, Nieto was a flight instructor for the Argentine Air Force then traveled the world for airlines as a catering manager. He became a naturalized citizen in 1963 and was married to his wife, Ellnoir, for 50 years. They moved to Kingwood in l984.  “Every day his calling card was, ‘good morning sunshine.’ He was always full of jokes and stories. He let customers state their needs then told the truth about what to select, regardless of price. He made parties come alive with recipes to complement the wine,” explained Maryanne Patrick, store designer. “I learned passion working with and enjoying the public from him. He left a lasting impression in my heart, about who I am.”  She is presently recording his memory book on CD for family and friends, and planning a memorial wine-tasting in August to celebrate his life. Arrangements will be announced.  “Hector’s motto was live life day-to-day and enjoy it,” said Patrick.

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