A few meters from where it all began. The alley where he was born Rui Nabeiro leads off the Campo Maior Town Hall. On one of the benches, Luís Costa watches his son play. They are both wearing gray tracksuits. Father and son, March 19, 2023. The day the earth lost a father figure.
“It was the father of it. Anyone in need turned to him. And he always had work ”. Today, Luís no longer works in the Delta universe, but he has been there, at TecniDelta. He speaks of a group that has, within itself, the answer to its needs. “If they need iron, they make iron.”
And, in Luís, there is the fear of all CampoMaiorenses: “the worst is from now on”, the not knowing if the decisions that will be taken by the descendants will ensure the work as the patriarch once assured. Do you remember the queues that formed every morning outside the Delta offices, waiting for “Mr. Rui” to arrive, hoping for a job.
It points us to the main church. In the middle of the afternoon, the doors open. A permanent in and out of people. Brushes, brooms, detergents. As much as age is advanced, someone’s death is never expected. In particular, the death of someone like “Mr. Rui”.
Among chamber workers, Delta employees, faithful and volunteers. Everyone does what they can to make sure the farewell house is immaculate. Conceição Rosado, working in one of the municipal museums, was asked to be here. And she didn’t hesitate.
Around it, walls are painted, stairs are cemented, church stairs are dusted. Rui Nabeiro’s body will arrive here this Monday, around noon. “A lot of people come. And, of course, it’s like having guests at home. We want everything spotless.”
The news of the death brought heavier faces, yes, but it also revealed the strength of work of this Alentejo people – the same strength that Nabeiro recognized when he decided to open Delta, in 1961. And it is work, always work, that concerns us when question: and now, what will the future be like?
“People are worried about the future. Feel a little scared. You could always knock on that door”, she confesses.
Grilled veal loin steak and soup with pasta
João Camel watches the movements from the restaurant door. The GNR even placed gates to prevent access. But he, with a full house still at five in the afternoon, allows himself the luxury of a break. And starting tomorrow, when all those who want to pay their last respects to the Commander begin to arrive, is there enough food to do the job? “We’re not ready, that’s for sure.”
But Faisão, the restaurant that Rui Nabeiro encouraged him to take over as owner, will do his best. On Mondays, he says, after the Delta founder made his usual rounds of companies, he used to stop by. The grilled veal loin steak was a delight. And the chicken soup, “with pasta” – or it wasn’t for the businessman averse to rice, which reminded him of the flavor of the difficulties of his youth.
“He made Campo Maior his homeland and land. And the older he was, the more respect they had for him”. Lately, Rui Nabeiro’s health has not allowed for so many visits. And the pandemic just made everything difficult. But he is sure of one thing: “He worked with the human part. Now fill in the form”. A new generation, a new way of managing, without the proximity that prevailed in the past.
João Camel unfolds in stories, not least because he was a comrade of “Mister Rui” in the Socialist Party. They shared many moments. But it is always in the simplest things that the difference lies. Like that time when, tired of the restaurant’s awnings already worn out, the woman asked Nabeiro to replace them. “In the afternoon the new ones were already there”.
The commander, the minister and the statue of one of them
The statue of Rui Nabeiro, at the entrance to the village, extends its presence. This Sunday, they placed a wreath of flowers in her hands. José Faria walks towards him. “I always asked God to give him health”. He who, after all, never worked at Delta. But he doesn’t hide his fear for everyone he knows working in the group. “As it was, it doesn’t stay”.
To the deserted streets of the land that is governed by the principles of “loyalty and value”, contrasts the municipal garden. The sun blessed the afternoon of the day when the village lost its most illustrious character – but who, they say, behaved in exactly the same way next to the President of the Republic or a Campo Maior woman who approached him in the street. Always available.
There was the commander, yes. But there was also “the minister” in Campo Maior. He was the husband of Adriana Paio, who praises the virtues of the deceased. “He couldn’t read, but he took care of everything.” He finds in him similarities with Rui Nabeiro, whom he praises for his intellect, despite his fourth grade. And he doesn’t hide how proud it is to have his grandson working at Delta. “They even let him go to Portalegre to study English”.
But Delta is also part of her life. Widow and pensioner time is always too elastic. But in the “Time to Give” project, promoted by the company, she finds a lot to entertain herself with. He talks over and over again about the “imaginary friend”, an activity in which, in exchange for a coin, participants are entitled to a gift. She does the wrapping herself. The money is then used for activities. Like the time they went to Lisbon, to a television show, and ended up eating codfish at the Expo.
Beside her, Francisca Leandro is nodding her head. Her mother, in Brussels, was “devastated” by the news of her death. But life goes on. You have to. This Monday, her husband will report to duty at Delta. As for the future, we’ll see soon. “There is that fear, yes”.
The memories are fresh in every person who walks these streets, even if “Sir Rui” hasn’t been walking them so often lately. In the old days, on Sundays like this one, but very different from this one, Rui Nabeiro would go in the morning to the supermarket he owned, the “Alentejo”, right next to the garden. At every step, a conversation. However, the supermarket changed hands and things lost their charm.
“So you shouldn’t have known?”, replies António Roca when talking about his former boss. It was security at Delta. And it has so much history to tell, “all true”, time permitting. Rui Nabeiro, he says, made appointments in Lisbon and paid a private driver for anyone with serious illnesses in the country. He also paid for many teeth plates. To have open, torn smiles, like his. Gestures that, on earth, it is well known that they are not repeated. “It’s all a change.”
“Delta Babies”. And coffee-fueled dreams
“Don’t you want a coffee?”. Not accepting it, in Campo Maior, is almost an offense. But no, the day is already long. Xavier Gonçalves wants everything to be perfect to talk about the “idol” that was Rui Nabeiro. “It’s like he’s one of the family, like he’s sitting at our table.” And it was, on Delta’s logos.
As fate would have it, on the day of this sad news, Xavier was spending the weekend in Campo Maior. “But I even used to tell my girlfriend that, on the day Mr. Rui died, I could be in Australia, that I would come here”.
“I often say that I am a Delta baby”. Because it was Delta, his father’s job, that gave him access to another world, to study. Xavier is only 25 years old but he knows endless stories about Rui Nabeiro. Like that time when he, knowing he was going to lend money to a man with a bad reputation, left with a smile. Because, after all, he had only asked her for half of what she was expecting.
It was because of “Mister Rui”, for his “influence” and donations of equipment, he believes, that the nearest hospital, in Elvas, has not yet closed. But, with the businessman’s definitive absence, it is feared that a lot could change around here. Including opportunities for qualified employment, with the possibility of moving the decision-making center to Lisbon, the city of Rui Miguel Nabeiro, the grandson at the head of the empire. “We always had an open door: that of Senhor Rui”.
The friend, Duarte Vives, agrees. It was through Delta, for the possibility of a qualified job, that he returned to his homeland, after studying in Coimbra. Just three weeks ago, he was with the boss. “At 91 years old, he sent the message that he still had a lot to do”. But lately, the once-full schedule has been emptied. Because Rui Nabeiro had a priority: his wife, Alice, who was “sickly”. He apologized to everyone for having to leave early. And everyone understood.
In the house where Rui and Alice built their life, a few meters from the municipal garden, the late afternoon sun still hits the roof. In the garden, four white chairs, embroidered in iron, wait empty. Downstairs blinds are halfway drawn. Pots with flowers and plants multiply.
This Monday, Rui Nabeiro will not fully perform the ritual, however much the funeral journey seeks to recreate the usual itinerary for companies. The businessman no longer goes through the gate of his house, and crosses the street, there between six and seven, towards the office, to confirm the coffee prices. Nor return, shortly afterwards, for breakfast with the usual love.