Gilbert William Ramirez
1927 - 2018
Our beloved father, grandfather, and brother, Gilbert “Gil” Ramirez, lost his life after being struck by an automobile while crossing State St. Saturday night 2/24/18. The multiple injuries he sustained were too severe to allow him to recover. It is quite ironic that a man who led such a peaceful life should have his life ended by such trauma. Today, his peace in Heaven with his Lord and Savior will continue the life he led here on earth.
Gilbert led a full life, a life that could best be summed up by the quote from Will Rogers: “I never met a man that I didn’t like” — but only if you added, women, children, dogs, and cats to the list. Not a particularly religious man, he did preach the Gospel if you consider what St. Francis of Assisi said: “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” You see, when you think of Gilbert, the words from Matthew 7:20 remind us of how he lived his life: “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
“Dad where are you going?” we’d ask. “I’m going to help my friend with some plant ideas — he needs some help and I’ve got some ideas for his landscaping,” is what he would often say. Usually, he’d give them some “teaser” plants that would later grow into sales of many more rare species of palms or cycads.
Gilbert was a past member of the Santa Barbara Horticultural Society and just recently told us that he was needing to pay his dues. He and his buddy, Barry, were opening their yards for the Society’s Garden Tour on March 10. He had just recently planted new lawn seed and was nurturing his backyard in preparation for the event. He was as excited as a kid at Christmas when it came to plants and the thought of so many folks coming to see his plants was a very big deal.
Being the preverbal optimist, it was only natural that he became a member of the Northside Optimist Club of Santa Barbara. I would venture to guess that he stayed a member just so he could sell sombreros and other Fiesta-related garb. He worked his assigned blocks with Bob during El Desfile Historico de Santa Barbara, an event that I am sure he had been celebrating since the days when he could first walk. What better place to be if you are someone who absolutely loved to be around people, and especially with people who are having a good time. I think we could all use some of that!
He enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17 and, during his tour of duty, was there to celebrate the surrender of Imperial Japan while still somewhere out in the Pacific on his refueling barge. His reason or desire to join was in his words, “I just wanted to go out into the action.” Upon returning from the War, he immediately went to work, something he was doing until the day he died.
Always working hard to support his family never allowed him the time to go back to school. Though not alone, it was not until 68 years later, and through the support of community leaders, that he was blessed with being granted the right of his high school diploma in June 2013. He felt like a rock star that day, “walking down the hill” at the historical Peabody Stadium surrounded by family and news media from around the country. Go Dons!
While single and working hard, he just had to have one of those fancy 1946 Chevy Convertibles costing him over $2,000. In 1946, that was a lot of money, but he had a plan. With his new car, he could then make “dancing” trips to Los Angeles to shake a leg to such artists as Duke Ellington and so many others, when the dancers of that era were swinging to the West Coast Jazz. Those weren’t concerts but rather large ballrooms or smaller jazz clubs like Billy Berg’s that hosted black artists who weren’t allowed to perform on the Sunset Strip. These were clubs that routinely booked Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker. The dancers of that era were swinging to West Coast Jazz, just in case the folks at James Joyce had not already figured out what Dad was doing. That same car and his fancy feet would later be the same tools he used to help sweep our mother off her feet. Thanks to our uncle Danny who was responsible for introducing them, and her sister Graciela who served as Mom’s escort, she was allowed to go to a dance where she met Gilbert.
Our father loved his garden and anything to do with plants. As a result, his career was one that had him working in and around plants, with his favorites being the rare palms and cycads. He would see the ancient plant species and tell me that they were around at the time of the dinosaurs, and I could always see that boyish and excited look on his face. His career after the War had him working into his 60s and 70s on some large estates in Hope Ranch. His clients included an heir of the Oscar Mayer Meat Company as well as his main employer, Francis Griswold, both of whom owned ocean front property on Marina Drive.
Gilbert was married in Santa Barbara to our mother, Carmen Gonzalez, also from Santa Barbara, on May 7, 1950. She preceded him in death on April 12, 2016, as did his parents, Lee and Irene Ramirez, his sister, Genevieve Herrera, and his two brothers, Ernie and Danny Ramirez.
Gilbert is survived by his sister, Julia Martinez of Santa Barbara, as well as his three children, Rebecca Bustos (Ralph) of Prescott Valley, AZ, Armando Ramirez (Gayle) of Santa Barbara, CA, and Cynthia Anderson (Christopher) of Leesburg, VA. He also has six grandchildren: Anissa Bustos of Modesto, CA, Gabriel Bustos (Chelsea) of Turlock, CA, Ryan Ramirez and Kenneth Ramirez (fiancée Caroline Rowland) of Santa Barbara, CA, Connor and Kyle Anderson of Leesburg, VA, and two great-grandsons, Noah and Beckett Bustos of Turlock, CA, as well as many nieces, nephews and cousins.
Funeral Services will be held at St. Raphael’s Church at 10 a.m. on March 15, followed by internment at Calvary Cemetery, right next to our mother, the love of his life. Immediately following we will celebrate his life at St. Raphael’s Parish Hall.