Sad news to report out of Riverside County: Josefina Ramirez, the matriarch of the Ramirez clan that was involved in the historic Mendez, et al. vs. Westminster case, passed away Oct. 28 at age 99, just two weeks before her 100th birthday.
Ramirez was the wife of Lorenzo Ramirez, the El Modena resident who was one of the lead plaintiffs in the historic desegregation case that helped to influence legal thinking in the more-famous Brown vs. Board of Education. But as I wrote in a 2009 cover story, the stories of Ramirez and three other families were largely forgotten, as the advocates for the Mendez clan placed that family above all others, forever saddening said families–but especially the Ramirezes. Most infamously, when Chapman University held a dedication ceremony for a reading room dedicated in the case's honor, the Ramirezes weren't invited.
Josefina was still upset about the lack of recognition when I spoke to her three years ago. “Since [the advocates of the case] started, it was just with them [the Mendezes],” she said then. “I don't want my husband to be in the front, but I don't want him forgotten, either.”
Thanks to the efforts of the Ramirez family and people who believe in total history, Josefina's wishes have started to become true. Last year, El Modena High School named their library in Lorenzo's honor, and more recognition will surely come to the family.
Josefina's passing marks the second death involving the case; earlier this year, God called Arthur Palomino, son of another plaintiff, Frank Palomino. As with the Palomino family, our thoughts and prayers are with Josefina's children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and all her family and friends, and our eternal gratitude goes out to this amazing woman for her family's contribution to make Orange County a better place for all.