Imelda Martinez ’80 Ramirez

It is with great sadness that we share the passing of Imelda (Martinez) Ramirez, beloved wife, step-mother, sister and aunt. Imelda died peacefully on July 9, 2021 with her husband, Nick Ramirez, and family by her side.

On Nov 18, 2017 she was united in marriage to her loving husband, Ignatius (Nick) Ramirez, who survives, along with her step children, Samuel Ramirez and Sofia Ramirez. In addition, Imelda is survived by her brother, Pedro C. (Silvia) Martinez; and sisters, Maria Isabel Osborn, Maria de Jesus (Joe) Garcia, Maria Estela Davison, Eva Narcissa Martinez; and many loved nieces and nephews. Imelda was preceded in death by her parents, Pedro Banda Martinez and Guadalupe Cortez Martinez; sisters, Juanita and Maria Josefina Medrano, brother, Alfredo Martinez; niece Marisa Medrano, and nephew, Little Joe Garcia.

Imelda was born in Elsa, Texas, commonly known as, “the Valley”. At the age of 7, her family moved, with a group of other migrants to Michigan, in April of 1964, in search of a better life. The family consisted of Imelda, her two older twin brothers Pedro and Al, younger sister Isabel, and her parents, Pedro and Guadalupe who were six months pregnant, with triplets, Maria De Jesus, Josephine and Estela. Imelda, along with her brothers, who were Spanish speakers only, quickly mastered the English language in elementary school in Holland, Michigan. Imelda was a quick learner, and loved to read. One of her favorite books as a child was the story of Heidi, the little brown haired girl who lived in the mountains with her grandfather. Heidi was the only brown haired child she saw in story books in those years.

Her love for learning carried into her teen years, where she was awarded scholarships, and was accepted at Hope College where she received her Bachelors of Arts, followed by her Master’s in Social Work. Imelda’s desire to make an impact in her community was powerful, she worked in foster care and adoption, uniting children with loving homes. She also worked with aiding and mentoring vulnerable women in an immeasurable way. It is those women and children and so many more that will carry the legacy of who Imelda was, a strong, loving, and modest mentor.

Imelda had a way of quietly supporting yet guiding you, and her friends and family loved her for that. But Imelda wanted to make a bigger impact in the community, which led to her work at the City of Grand Rapids Engineering Department in 2005, which led to her being the first Hispanic woman to hold such a position. She was instrumental in helping bring millions of grant dollars to the City of Grand Rapids where it was invested in the City’s neighborhoods and downtown. Imelda loved nature, and would often recall memories of the first time she saw a pine tree and noticed their strong earthy scent. Everyday she would enjoy setting out an abundance of seeds with Nick for the beautiful birds flocking towards their deck. Together they enjoyed the beautiful song birds, her favorite being the sound of a Mourning Dove’s cooing.

We must not forget the fishing excursions. Imelda and Nick enjoyed fishing and camping. And oh, how she loved those adventures with her husband. Her greatest treasure was the knowledge that she was a descendent from a long line of strong, spiritual, and proud people. Her greatest influences were the amazing women Imelda met throughout her life. Each of those women helped Imelda become the beautiful, strong, proud woman that she was to become for so many others. Her mentor Francis Gamez met Imelda at the age of 10 years old. 54 years of friendship and love they shared. Imelda encouraged other “hermanitas” to grow wings, to fly high, and to walk proud, including Imelda’s sisters, and nieces. Specifically, Alicia and Tracy, who both acquired their master’s degree in social work, and Melisa and Selena who are currently working on their degrees in the same field. Imelda’s impact on her nephews were many as well, for they all loved her and saw her as their “second mother”. She will be dearly missed but she will live on in those that she poured love into.

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