By Erik Onstott
The Orange Leader
Orange County lost one of its most prominent citizens Friday.
Tony Houseman, the owner of Tony Houseman Homes and a benefactor to many in Southeast Texas, died at his home Friday afternoon after a long battle with cancer. He was 73.
“He lived life fully,” said Betty Harmon, the former president of the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce. “He was a fighter right up to the end.”
A Port Arthur native, Houseman left Southeast Texas in 1966 and entered into an investment banking career in Los Angeles; he went on to earn New York Stock Exchange licenses up to the level of partner/owner and went on to establish his own firm in Dallas. Houseman Securities originated, developed and underwrote projects from water and sewer tax revenue bonds to health care projects and real estate limited partnerships.
Houseman returned to Southeast Texas in 1987 and purchased ownership of his family land company and formed the Houseman Companies. He was the owner of Tony Houseman Homes, which has been building homes in Southeast Texas since the 1960s and last month expanded into Louisiana with an office in Lake Charles; another of his major projects in Orange County is the Eagle Point area at Texas 62 and Interstate 10, which includes several fast-food restaurants and gas stations.
In addition to his business ventures, Houseman was aso involved in various charities in Orange County, including Patrons of Police — a support group for area law enforcement, of which Houseman was the founder — and Hoop-D-Do on the Bayou, a 3-on-3 charity basketball tournament which benefits Patrons of Police and the Special Olympics.
“His main thing was caring for people. He was always willing to step up for everyone else,” Harmon said. “Once he was a friend, he was a friend for life.”
Billy Burrow, the chairman of the board of the Greater Orange Chamber of Commerce, also spoke highly of Houseman.
“He was certainly good for Orange,” Burrow said. “He would tell anyone that Orange was his home.”
Houseman served as a past board member of the Orange and Bridge City chambers of commerce; he was also a member of the Vidor Chamber of Commerce and past chairman of the Bridge City Unified Development Code and the Bridge City Economic Development Corporation.
Houseman’s work also benefited abused children; he was a founder of the Desperado’s Cinco de Mayo celebration, whose proceeds go to abused children, and the House With A Heart Expo, which has raised more than $350,000 for programs for abused and neglected Southeast Texas children.
Houseman was an avid outdoorsman as well, taking 17 African safaris.
“I asked him about going to Africa, and he said it was a lot of fun,” Burrow said. “So I went, and he asked me, ‘When are you going back?’
“I asked him what he meant, and he said, ‘Once you go, you’ll go again,’” he said. “And sure enough, a couple of years later, I went again.”
Houseman was also heavily involved with the local Ducks Unlimited chapter.
“We called on him to give us help,” Burrow, who is also a Ducks Unlimited member, said of Houseman. “We asked for his thoughts on what we could do to make Ducks Unlimited stand out, and he gave us several ideas.
“We recently received several awards,” Burrow said. “We were recognized as one of the top five Ducks Unlimited chapters in the state of Texas, and one of the top 100 in the nation. Even after he got sick, he would come to our meetings, asking how were doing and if all was well.”
In keeping with his love for the outdoors, Houseman worked on behalf of more than a dozen wildlife conservation organizations and served as an advisory board member for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Expo and Operation Game Thief, as well as an executive committee member of Future of Hunting in Texas. He was also a member of the Texas Wildlife Foundation and the Dallas and Houston Safari Clubs; at one time he served as president and convention chairman of both clubs.
Houseman won several awards for his advocacy on various fronts, most recently the Community Builders Award by Madison Lodge No. 126 of Orange — an award which is presented annually to a non-Mason who has benefited his or her community — and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Greater Orange Chamber of Commerce.
“We may or may not give the award out again, but there is no question he was deserving of it,” Burroughs said. “I really looked up to him. He was a fine individual; he will be sorely missed.”
Houseman is survived by four children: Stanley Houseman and wife Susan, and Zo Houseman, both of Portland, Oregon; three grandsons, Matt Houseman and wife Lesli, Sean Acuna, and Chad Kelly; and one, great-grandson Sawyer Houseman.
Funeral services are pending with Claybar Funeral Home.