Family, friends and co-workers are mourning the loss of Papacita’s Mexican Restaurant founder Robert Hampton, who greeted customers at the Mexican food restaurant with a “big smile and a hearty welcome.”
Hampton died Sunday after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease. His funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. today in the chapel of Rader Funeral Home in Longview.
“Robert impacted countless lives in both our community and at Papacita’s through his amazingly generous heart, spirit and love for all he met,” the restaurant wrote in a Facebook post. “Robert was a father figure and mentor to many Papacita’s employees, always there to offer help in any way he could.”
Hampton, 87, was a self-made entrepreneur. His careers included sales for Procter and Gamble, retail clothing store owner, home builder and real estate developer. According to his obituary posted by Rader Funeral Home, one of his favorite accomplishments was a real estate development in which he partnered with Mickey Mantle.
In 1985, Hampton purchased Papacita’s, which originally was on U.S. 80 at the site of the current Pizza King. When Hampton purchased the restaurant, it was with a vision to create an environment in which family and friends could enjoy dining together, according to Papacita’s.
In 1992, Hampton relocated the restaurant to its home on Loop 281, helping him to fulfill his dream of owning one of the largest Mexican restaurants in East Texas. The current building can seat up to 375 people and has two banquet rooms.
In 2010, Hampton opened Diddy’s Yogurt Shoppe on Loop 281 near Papacita’s. According to Hampton’s obituary, Hampton’s grandchildren called him “Diddy.”
Hampton also was dedicated to raising money for the East Texas Angel Network, a nonprofit organization that financially assists families who have children with serious or life-threatening illnesses. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the organization at easttexasangelnetwork.com or by mail to East Texas Angel Network, 2802 Gilmer Road, Suite 1, Longview, TX 75604.
Hampton is survived by his wife of 34 years, Marilyn; his children, Mike and Kathy Hampton, Stephanie Hampton, Meredith Roel and Whitney Gretzinger; his grandchildren, Shannon VanTrease, Susan Hampton Conner, Thomas Roel, Olivia Roel, Jackson Gretzinger and Caroline Gretzinger; and his great-grandchildren, Shelby Gail Hall, Taylor Hall Keville and Holly Hall.