The funeral for my friend, Juan Ramos, took place on July 31. He was 71 years young, and gone too soon. There were tears, smiles, and lots of hugs.
Juan was a public servant, serving as a Philadelphia City Councilman from 2004 to 2008, just the second Hispanic to serve in Council. He was also in Mayor John Street’s cabinet.
He was a worker and a Laborer as member — and later an official — in the Laborers Union in Philadelphia.
He was a Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church and a one-time official with the Archdiocese, working alongside me in its Public Affairs office.
He was an outspoken leader, voice and problem-solver for the Latino community — and, anyone who asked for help. He was a dominoes player, cook, consumer of good food, and cultivator of good friendships.
Juan was, most of all, a brother, uncle, dad, grandfather, great-grandfather, and loving husband.
We used to have an expression for people like Juan Ramos: he was “good people.”
He was eulogized by those who knew all of those things and more. Some tears, some smiles and some hugs were shared by a church filled with people speaking several languages, of all incomes, living in Philadelphia and across the state — and of all political parties.
He was a passionate, dedicated Laborer working with and fighting for his members. And he did this effectively without my ever hearing him tear-down business-owners or capitalism.
He was a deeply devout Catholic — becoming an ordained Deacon. He remained true to his faith and the faithful, yet never made anyone of others faiths — or no faith — feel unwelcome. On the contrary, everyone was welcome to talk with, eat with, and play dominoes with Juan.
He was a faithful Democrat, and managed to do that while advocating for school choice and his defense of all innocent life.
Juan led an impactful life as a public servant, Laborer, Deacon and friend to all — while being a loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather. And, most of all, Juan was a devoted husband whose devotion to his wife was only outpaced by his Ana’s love and devotion to him.
I met Juan about 25 years ago. And over the years, I worked with him, talked with him and learned from him and his brother, Pedro, too. I learned so much more by being at his funeral. Thankfully.
In an era of political polarization, people being divided, labels, shouting and a focus on our many, many differences, Juan’s funeral accomplished what Juan did in life: it brought people together. Anyone paying attention had to notice and, had to feel this — while wiping away the tears.
Leaving his funeral I was overcome by a mix of emotions. Gratitude that I knew him. Disappointment that I didn’t spend more time with him. And, inspiration — one can have an impact on the outside world and at home. And, one can be a passionate advocate for one’s beliefs, without tearing down those who oppose you.
Juan left us far too soon, yet, leaves a lasting legacy and model for us to follow.
We need more men like Juan. He gave us a roadmap. He passed the baton. The rest is up to us. RIP and may God bless you, Juan Ramos.
Guy Ciarrocchi is a Fellow with the Commonwealth Foundation. He writes for Broad+Liberty and RealClear Pennsylvania. Follow him @PaSuburbsGuy