With unending love for her family, Ramona Arroyo lived life to the fullest each day. Through the choices she made it is easy to see that happiness is not found in the things we have, but that it is through the joy we bring to those around us that we are richly blessed. Being a mother seemed to be a role that was tailor made just for Ramona as she was selfless, protective, and full of unconditional love when it came to her children. She was well known for her authentic Puerto Rican dishes that were shared not only with her family but also with countless others who were within her reach. Ramona was a hardworking, courageous, and resilient woman who was dearly loved by countless others. She will be deeply missed but never forgotten.
Life in Puerto Rico was anything but easy during the 1930s. There were vast amounts of unrest within the system of government that was put in place through the Jones Act of 1917, which named the country as a United States territory. The Puerto Rican Nationalist Party was relentless in its treatment of the nation’s people, which along with the strain of the Great Depression of the 1930s set in motion a great migration of Puerto Rican people to the continental United States by the 1940s. It was during this eventful time that a bustling family from Barceloneta, Puerto Rico, was blessed to welcome a healthy baby girl into their fold on August 31, 1936. Ramona was the youngest of seven children born to her parents, Sixto and Paula (Acosta) Arroyo, and was raised in the family home alongside her siblings, Salome, Anselmo, Miguel, Apolonio, Hermenegilda, and Irma. Her father worked as a farmer while her mother focused her attention at home.
The Arroyo family was not immune to the trials around them as they struggled in daily life. Ramona was only able to attended school through the third grade as her help was greatly needed both at home and on the farm.
In hopes for a better life Ramona married in her early twenties. Her husband moved to the United States where he worked, sending money back to Ramona and their two children, Paula, who was born in 1962 and Primo “Nito,” who was born in 1964, who remained in Puerto Rico. Eventually, the family saved enough for Ramona and her children to move to the United States where they eventually settled in Milwaukee. Once there she attended MATC to learn English. Four of Ramona’s siblings eventually ended up in Milwaukee as well.
It is easy to see that Ramona’s children, grandchildren, and extended family members were her life. She has been described as a mother hen protecting her chicks from under her loving wings when it came to her children. Ramona continually told them, “I love you more than my life,” and her nieces and nephews viewed her as a second mother. The love she gave her children was always offered without condition and given freely and in abundance. Ramona had a special place in her heart for her son as she was so proud of him with a love for him like no other. She cherished his telephone calls and enjoyed her shopping trips with him, too. Ramona’s daughter would go above and beyond to make her birthday an event to remember each year. One year Ramona was surprised to see a horse-drawn carriage coming down the street to pick her up at her apartment to take her to Buca’s for a birthday dinner! Ramona was delighted when Paula married in 1986 and brought Chuck, whom she called “Choco”, into her family. And their union blessed her with two granddaughters, Ashley and Iliana. They were one of her greatest joys and the time she shared with them was so precious to her. Because Ashley had trouble pronouncing “Abuelita,” which is the Spanish word for grandmother, they affectionately referred to Ramona as “Alita.” in the 1970’s, Ramona’s mother found herself alone in Puerto Rico. Although her siblings had tried to persuade their mother to come to the United States, it was finally Ramona who proved to be successful and got her mom to make the big move as she wanted to be able to care for her as did the rest of her family.
Always willing to work hard, Ramona was known for her strong work ethic. All of her jobs were hard manual labor and included working at a book binder, doing metal work, and working at a tannery. Mona, as her friends knew her, was even able to work side-by-side with her sister, Gilda, for a while at a factory, and her time at the tannery netted her numerous friends with whom she often swapped recipes. Upon her retirement Mona’s friends at the tannery threw her a surprise party, which greatly touched her.
Ramona lived a life that was filled with so many of the things she enjoyed. She loved going shopping and would take the bus to Southridge Mall to spend hours window shopping followed by lunch at McDonald’s. Ramona occasionally attended church at the Milwaukee Church of Christ with her daughter where she of course made many friends. One of her favorite holidays was Christmas, and she loved to cook Arroz con Gandules (a dish that was highly requested and that people would pay her to make), Lecheon, and Pasteles. Ramona enjoyed the independence of living in her downtown apartment at Jefferson Court. Her friends there were also the beneficiaries of Ramona’s cooking. The location of her apartment allowed her to be close to one of her favorite events – Jazz in the Park. Ramona enjoyed watching her Spanish soap operas, Caso Cerrado, old detective shows, and cooking shows. Ramona made many trips back to Puerto Rico through the years where she would cook crabs to bring back home to Milwaukee.
During the final days of her journey, Ramona had health issues to contend with. It was so special when Paula and granddaughter, Ashley made Ramona’s signature dishes this past Christmas and brought them to the hospital. Even as she laid in her hospital bed Ramona was concerned that everyone had something to eat and readily shared her beloved foods that Paula and Ashley made with the hospital staff.
All who knew Ramona Arroyo would agree that she was one of the sweetest people around. She worked hard to give her family everything that she possibly could, and she never wanted to be a burden to them. Ramona showed her love through her caring for others and the countless foods she prepared for her family and friends, and her skills in the kitchen were truly unmatched. Life will never be the same without her here, but her legacy that is deeply rooted in compassion and unconditional love will be carried on in the lives of all who were blessed to know and love her.
Ramona “Mona” Arroyo, died on December 26, 2013. Ramona’s family includes her children, Primo “Nito” Pastrana-Arroyo and Paula (Chuck) Jones; grandchildren, Ashley and Iliana Jones; sister, Hilda “Irma” Perez; and several nieces, nephews, other relatives, and friends. Visit with Mona’s family and friends on Friday, January 3 at the Funeral Home from 5:00 p.m. until time of the Funeral Service at 7 p.m. Interment Forest Home Cemetery. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com where you can leave a favorite memory.
The kindness, prayers, and support shown to Ramona’s family by her extended family and friends is sincerely appreciated.
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