When Fred Senra was a 14-year-old growing up in Cuba, he and his friends considered themselves to be counterrevolutionaries and had some guns.
“We had a fantasy to take out Castro,” said Celita Cabrera, who has known Senra since high school. “Our parents knew better and took us to the U.S.”
Senra, 77, was the first friend Cabrera saw when she arrived in Miami and years later when he was a notary public, he performed her marriage.
That was one of many kindnesses Senra is known for. On Nov. 18, Cabrera joined more than 100 people gathered at the corner of Northwest 167th Street and Northwest 59th Avenue, which was dedicated that morning as Fred Senra Way.
The new street sign is across the avenue from the Miami Lakes AutoMall dealership, where Senra is a partner.
Joining Senra and his wife of 56 years, Maggie Senra, were four generations of family: Daughter Mylene and her husband Tico Casamayor; Michelle and her husband Javier Peral and Fernando and his husband Ryan Senra-James; grandson Matthew Casamayor and step-grandchildren and a step-great grandson from their daughter Michelle’s marriage. Cousins, a niece, nephew and great nieces and nephews were there, too.
Speakers called Senra a philanthropist -- to causes including youth education, sports and veterans -- and a civic volunteer.
Miami Lakes Town Clerk Gina Inguanzo said Senra “is an extraordinary human being, a great resident who helps the town and all the residents, all the time. We should clone him.”
Senra leads the Chamber of Commerce, is vice commander of American Legion Post 144 and is a director of the Miami Lakes Town Foundation, which administers grants to education programs with funds provided by the Miami Lakes Food & Wine Festival.
Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid called Senra “An example to our community who has provided thousands of jobs for local residents, who has never turned people away, who has mentored people throughout the years, in the sales floor and the mechanic shop.”
Hope Vuelens, controller at the AutoMall, was one of several employees who witnessed the tribute to their boss.
“It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy,” she said. “He’s a man of faith, a man of integrity. He’s a loyal employer and a friend.”
Councilwoman Marilyn Ruano sponsored the street naming.
“He walks with Christ and he shares that with us every single day,” Ruano said. Senra often posts scripture on Facebook.
“He’s someone who is a patriot, someone who came to this country and served this country honorably,” she said, “and we are here today because of gentlemen like himself and others in our audience that have been veterans and have served our great nation.”
She called him as a family man and example to others.
“There is no more deserving human being than you, Fred,” Ruano said. “We love you.”
In addition to Cid and Ruano, elected officials present included Vice Mayor Tony Fernandez; Council members Luis Collazo, Josh Dieguez and Ray Garcia; Hialeah Council President Monica Perez; former Miami Lakes Vice Mayor Nelson Rodriguez, volunteers with town committees and members of the Planning and Zoning Board, which Senra has served for 13 years.
Young Marines presented the colors during the ceremony when Riamonae performed the national anthem.
The crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance and Pastor Ivan Rodriguez from Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church gave a blessing.
“We’ll all have to change our GPS,” Rodriguez said about the new street name. While sprinkling holy water, he blessed both the intersection and the street sign.
“I think it’s a recognition, gratitude of God’s blessing to you and to your family, for everything you have done for many people, for this town …” Rodriguez said.
Senra was a sergeant and signal corps instructor in the U.S. Army. Miami Lakes AutoMall pays for the banners displayed along Miami Lakes Drive that honor veterans and active-duty service members.
“The American Legion is very dear to my heart,” Senra said. “Our family gave four members to the Armed forces: One at the end of the second World War, another in the Korean War and my brother and I during Vietnam. So I think that was a good contribution to our country.”
He said he couldn’t claim sole credit for good works attributed to him and thanked his partners in the AutoMall.
“I love this town,” said Senra, who first lived in Hialeah when his family arrived from Cuba. “I love the people in it. I’m one of those that with my family, that live, work and play in the Town of Miami Lakes.”
About the street sign, Senra said, “It’s an honor to see my name there, which I think is undeserved. This charity and community involvement and all that would never have been possible without the Ahmed family, Faisal and Ali Ahmed, who own the whole empire.
“They’re the ones who, when I say, ‘We need to do this,’ they would say, ‘Whatever you need to do.’ … I cannot say this is just me, because it’s not me, I’m just part of it.
“From the bottom of my heart, I thank all of you for being here,” he said.
His son Fernando Senra-James said about the crowd of relatives and admirers, “I think it’s a testament to my Dad’s impact on so many people. He’s very generous with his time and gives good counsel. And that goes a long way. I’m very proud of him.”