Quest for Green Eyes
Migdalia Ramos remembers that she had just broken up with her boyfriend on her 18th birthday and was too despondent to dance. All evening, men asked her, and all evening she said no. Finally, the girlfriends trying to cheer her up told her, "If you don't dance with the next person who asks you, we're going to embarrass you."
Up through the crowd came Harry Ramos.
"He was a great dancer," she said. "He had a lot of hustle." He was also delighted when she told him she was Puerto Rican, and spoke Spanish to prove it. "He said, 'I have to marry you then, because I've been looking for a Puerto Rican girl with green eyes,' " she said. "I didn't believe him, but he was all excited. He said, 'Look! Look!' " and he pulled out photographs of the green- eyed Puerto Ricans his two brothers had already married.
She was somewhat alarmed, and considered giving him the wrong phone number. But he persisted. They dated for eight years and were married in 1986.
When Mr. Ramos was laid off from his job as a carpenter, he remade himself in financial services, working his way up to head trader at the May Davis Group, a small investment bank on the 87th floor of 1 World Trade Center. "He got that break and he ran with it," Mrs. Ramos said.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 2, 2001.
Harry Ramos, 45, gave life for others
Harry Ramos took his son Eugene to his first day of school at Robert Treat Academy in Newark on Sept. 4.
Five-year-old Eugene didn't cry. He didn't latch on to his father or his mother, Migdalia Ramos, who also escorted him into the school.
Instead, he saw another child crying and patted him on the back. "Don't cry," Eugene said as he comforted the boy.
Mr. Ramos smiled.
"Harry was very, very proud," Migdalia Ramos said as she recalled her son's first day of school. "It was a reflection of Harry."
One week later, Mr. Ramos, head equity trader May Davis Group, helped lead his co-workers to safety. But he stayed behind to comfort a man he hardly knew.
The last time anyone saw Mr. Ramos, he was on the 33rd floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center, telling the man he would not leave him. Mr. Ramos, 45, of Newark, was the only May Davis employee who did not escape.
Hailed as a hero by his co-workers and strangers, who saw him sitting with the man as they passed to escape, Mr. Ramos' story has received international coverage.
A scholarship has been named in his honor, an annual bowling tournament in Puerto Rico has been renamed for him, and this year's Puerto Rican Parade of New Jersey was dedicated to him.
Mr. Ramos was born in Brooklyn to Napoleon and Bertha Ramos, Puerto Rican migrants who were raising their four children in the Fort Greene projects on Napoleon's doorman salary.
He was a scrawny kid who worked his way up on Wall Street after a mentor encouraged him to scrap plans to be a carpenter.
Mr. Ramos was the youngest but just a year and a half younger than Henry. Together, they learned to ride bikes and skateboards and how to sneak away from the protective eye of their mother. "We'd tell her we were going to the store and disappear," Henry Ramos said.
Mr. Ramos liked to follow in the footsteps of his older brothers. At least, that's the line he fed to his future wife when they first met at a Manhattan nightclub on Sept. 30, 1978.
Migdalia Ramos was celebrating her 19th birthday and was a little down since she had just broken up with her boyfriend. Her sisters-in-law told her that she had to dance with someone that night. "Here comes Harry," she said. "He asked me to dance. That was it."
He was a sharp dresser. "He was Mr. GQ," she said, later recalling how he always wore a shirt and tie and wore silk pajamas to bed.
And boy, could he dance. "He was Fred Astaire," she said.
He asked Migdalia about her nationality. She said she was Puerto Rican, and he said he was in love. "Both of my brothers are with Puerto Rican women with green eyes," his wife said. "So, I'm going to have to marry you because you are Puerto Rican with green eyes."
In the first year of their courtship, Mr. Ramos sent Migdalia a dozen roses every 30th of the month. After eight years of dating, they got married. And then, he created a Friday night ritual: coming home to his wife with flowers in his hand and dancing on his mind.
The weekends were for family. "He would sing, 'Thank God it's Friday night' and 'I just got paid,'" Migdalia Ramos, 42, said as she danced around her kitchen yesterday with a tear-stained face.
In addition to his wife, son, brother and mother, Mr. Ramos is survived by another son, Alex of Newark; another brother, Robert of Queens; and his sister, Evelyn of Queens.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at St. Michael's Church, 175 Broadway in Newark. Contributions can be made to the Benefit of the Family of Harry Ramos, 330 16th Street, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215, Attn.: Adam Goldberg, Esq.
Profile by Nikita Stewart published in THE STAR-LEDGER.