When reflecting on the life of Juan Torres, we are inspired to dream big, work hard, and live large. He was a man of great character and strength who never took even one moment for granted. A dedicated family man, Juan believed that a good education is an integral part of living a successful life, and although he accomplished so much of which to be proud there was nothing that made his heart swell with pride more than seeing his family tree blossom to include numerous branches of loved ones. The memories Juan leaves behind will be forever held near and dear to those who cherished him.
Life in Puerto Rico during most of the 1920s was a time of great prosperity. A dramatic increase in the price of their principal export, sugar, brought great amounts of cash to local farmers, and as a result the island’s infrastructure was steadily upgraded. However, this all came to a screeching halt when the crash of the stock market sent much of the world spiraling downward into the depths of the Great Depression. It was during the vibrant decade of the 1920s that a bustling family from Utuado, Puerto Rico, was blessed with the birth of a healthy baby boy on January 7, 1922. Juan B. was the seventh of eleven children born to his parents, Manuel and Beatrice (Rivera) Torres, and was raised in the family home alongside his three brothers and seven sisters. His father was a farmer who grew coffee and bananas, and the Torres children helped work the farm as well. With an insatiable thirst for learning and a drive to succeed, Juan attended local schools, graduating from high school in Puerto Rico.
When he was 20 years old Juan enlisted in the Army shortly after our nation became engulfed in WWII. Since no one from Puerto Rico ever enlists in the Army, the first thing they did was to perform a psychological evaluation! They of course found Juan to be of sound mind, and he was placed in officer training school. While in training Juan injured his knee, and he was placed in the enlisted ranks. It comes as no surprise that he worked hard while in the military, which allowed him to be promoted to master sergeant.
Not long after the war’s end in 1945, Juan followed his high school sweetheart, Carmen Collazo, to New York where she was staying with a cousin as she was from a large family. Deeply in love, Juan and Carmen were married in a civil ceremony in New York. He also applied and was accepted to Milwaukee School of Engineering. The newlyweds traveled to Milwaukee and eagerly began their life together. They renewed their vows with the blessing of the Catholic Church at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in 1949.
Juan and Carmen were one of the first people of Puerto Rican descent to settle in Milwaukee when they put down roots on the East Side of the city. As the first in both of their families to settle, the door was open for other family members to follow suit. They often had family staying with them while establishing lives of their own.
Not long after they married Juan and Carmen began their family with the birth of their daughter, Carmen. She was later followed by their five sons, John, Rene, Ivan, Victor and Eric. The Torres family was given a devastating blow when Carmen was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, she died on April 29, 1963. Since Juan faced raising six children ranging in age from thirteen years down to only four months old, he sought help from family. His children were then sent to Puerto Rico to stay with family, and after five months Juan brought his four oldest children, Carmen, John, Rene, and Ivan, back to Milwaukee as he felt confident in being able to provide for them in his own home. His youngest two sons, Victor and Eric, remained in Puerto Rico where they were raised by an aunt. On Fridays Juan got paid so he sent money to Puerto Rico to help raise them. Later in life he became a father again with the birth of his daughter, Stephanie, when he was 65.
As all who knew Juan can attest, he lived a disciplined life, always working hard to provide. His career was spent in the shipping and receiving department at Inland Container Corporation. Juan remained there for over 35 years, retiring in 1987 as a supervisor in his department. He was also ambitious by nature so he was always looking to invent or sell something in order to make a little extra money.
There were so many things about Juan that left his children poised for greatness. His emphasis on education sank in as all of his children received college educations, and his grandchildren will soon have their degrees as well. Juan was organized in everything he did, and as someone who always wanted to learn more he was an avid reader.
Having gotten an early start in farming, Juan was well prepared for gardening as an adult. He grew a variety of vegetables like peppers, radishes, and lettuce among others in addition to garlic. Juan also became an outstanding cook, although his children could be a bit hesitant when trying out his new dishes. Their rule of thumb was to feed it to the dog first since, “If the dog ate it, it had to be good!”
During his sunset years Juan was able to remain in his home, including during his more recent years because of the help of caregivers. In total he lived in his home at 717 E. Pearson Street for over sixty years. The day after celebrating his 91st birthday with family, Juan became ill and was transferred to the hospital. He entered hospice care at Zilber Family Hospice on Friday, January 11 where he drew his last breath just a few days later on Tuesday, January 15, 2013.
With a life that spanned times of great change in the world around him, Juan Torres was a man of great character and inner strength. He worked tirelessly to provide a good life for his family and was a devoted husband and father. Later in life Juan was delighted to become a grandfather and great-grandfather. He was a longtime resident of Milwaukee and leaves behind a lasting imprint in the community he loved. Juan will be dearly missed.
Juan B. Torres died on January 15, 2013. Juan’s family includes his children, Carmen Torres Nans, John (Nancy), Rene, Ivan (Isabel), Victor (Maru), Eric (Marissa), and Stephanie Torres; grandchildren, Jessica (Paul), Andrea, Marissa, Joshua, Bianca, Brianna, Natalie, Christina, Ricardo, Daniel, Eric Victor, Fabiola, and Erika; great-grandchildren, Ariel, Belle, and Melody; and other relatives and friends. Juan was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Carmen. Family and friends will gather Friday, January 18, at Three Holy Women Parish – St. Rita Church 1601 N. Cass Street from 4:00 p.m. until time of the Memorial Mass at 7:00 p.m. Arrangements provided by Suminski LifeStory Funeral Homes, Suminski / Weiss (414) 276-5122. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com where you can leave a memory.