Eugenio Ramirez, Sr. was a loving husband and caring father, who embraced life and all that it had to offer. He learned his life’s craft from experience and a formal education, yet he used his skills to help his neighbors as well as build his career. Genuine and kind, honest and generous, Eugenio was well loved by his family, friends and community.
Eugenio was the only child of Serapio and Anicasia Quinones Ramirez, born June 15, 1915 in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico. Two years later, residents of the island nation were granted U.S. citizenship in an ongoing relationship with the United States, following the Spanish American War in which Spain ceded Puerto Rico in 1898.
On this beautiful island with a rich history, Eugenio went through his school years as a fascinated student of history and math, the latter skill partly due to his father’s occupation. Eugenio’s father was a carpenter and furniture builder, employing skills that required precise calculation as well as creativity. His mother worked in a tobacco factory processing the leaves, and every day Eugenio played with his cousins, who were as close to him as brothers and sisters.
Family became very important to Eugenio, and they were influential in his life. He was especially attached to his uncles on both sides of his parents’ families. He learned carpentry from his father and two uncles, all the while he attended school in Vega Alta. During his school years, he gained such a reputation as a bright young man and a very good student that, years later, his own children were frequently asked if they were the children of Eugenio. The implication was that they must have received their intelligence from their father.
After completing high school, Eugenio wanted to improve his carpentry skills in order to build for others. So, he pursued a degree at the University of Puerto Rico, where he studied drafting for two years. The combination of drafting and carpentry enabled him to design homes and inspect the plans of other people. It was a profession that suited Eugenio and served his community well.
Because of his family, work and personality, Eugenio knew just about everyone in town. Still, there was one more person he was meant to meet. While visiting friends, Eugenio met a young woman at the neighbors next door. Dominga Murphy-Morrero was also visiting friends, but that day she added one more. Dominga “Minga” and Eugenio began courting and soon fell in love. At first, Minga’s mother did not really like Eugenio, but she grew to love him as her son-in-law and, in years to come, she even lived with them.
The loving couple married on September 7, 1943 in Vega Alta, just before Eugenio reported for military duty in the United States armed forces. With a new bride, he was reluctant to leave for the military, but he knew he had an obligation to his country. He performed his duties with honor and became very proud of his service, often talking of his experiences in The Philippines, Korea, Hawaii and Panama. Upon his return, he and Minga began their married life that would last for over 60 years.
Eugenio and Minga were blessed with nine children: Maria E., Eugenio, Jr., Isabel, Elix, Maritza, Jorge, Julio, Jose and Maria M. All but one were born at home with the help of a mid-wife, but sadly, baby Julio died when he was just one month old. Eugenio instilled in his children the joy of family, the value of education and curiosity for the world around them.
Eugenio’s sense of adventure led him to travel. He especially liked to visit the eastern United States such as Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. He was introduced to the mid-west when a friend came to visit him in 1966. Eugenio had grown up with and been in the service with his friend who had since moved to Racine, Wisconsin. During the visit, Eugenio was coaxed into traveling to Wisconsin, and in September of that same year, he joined his friend in Racine.
Eugenio found work at the foundry for Bell City Company in Racine and began to think of resettling. He told Minga that as soon as he found the right place, the family could join him. On January 13, 1967, Minga and the youngest children arrived… in the middle of a snow storm! Under such conditions, it was a wonder they stayed. Still, the older children soon joined them, even their oldest daughter Maria E., who was already married.
With his family state-side, Eugenio worked both at the foundry and at his profession in carpentry and building. Wherever he went, Eugenio was happy to help people build or fix their homes. With his passion for building, he always needed the right tool. Over the years, he accumulated so many tools that his home could be mistaken for a hardware store.
As the Ramirez children began to seek higher education and employment opportunities, Eugenio and Minga moved to Milwaukee to be near them. They settled just north of town, in the Riverwest area of the city. He put his carpentry skills to work there and once again, the two of them dug into their surroundings. They formed lasting relationships that made Eugenio a beloved friend of everyone in the Hispanic community.
On August 15, 2004, Eugenio’s dear wife died just a month shy of their 61st wedding anniversary. Eugenio had already shown symptoms of Alzheimer’s before Minga’s death but her death left a greater void. Shortly after Minga died, Eugenio went to live with his son Eugenio, Jr., who became his care giver, companion and friend.
The love of family supported Eugenio a great deal. He entered the United Community Center – Adult Day Program, which he enjoyed greatly. Eugenio believed he was traveling to visit his homeland, making him eager to go every day. He enjoyed talking with everyone, often telling others he was going once again see San Juan and Vega Alta—the places he never forgot.