Rafael Ferrer, a former Dean at Hunter College, CUNY, until his retirement in 2003, who also taught courses while there, died of natural causes on Friday, July 13 at the Westchester Medical Center, Valhalla, N.Y. He was 83 years young.
Born July 8, 1935, one of Julio Colón Ferrer and Juana Cruz Ferrer's 12 children (Lucia, Julia, Clara, Ana, Juanita, Dolores, Julio, Felipe, Johnny, Luis, Francisco), he was raised and grew up in Spanish Harlem. Ralphie, as he was known to his family and friends, was a true native of "El Barrio." He attended it's local Elementary and Junior High Schools, Patrick Henry and Galvani (P.S. 83), respectively, and then graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School on 116 Street and Pleasant Avenue . Going on to work full-time at a number of odd jobs, he also enrolled as a student in the evening division at New York University, earning his Baccalaureate and later a Master of Social Work degree. A much beloved, widely respected presence throughout the neighborhood, he had, as a younger man, been a member and leader of the Senecas, a one-time gang turned Social Club. For many years during the 1950s he worked as a youth counselor and mentor at the 110th Street and Fifth Avenue branch of The Boys Club of New York. He later also worked as a youth and youth gang counselor in other parts of the city before going to Hunter and assuming his position in the Dean of Students Office .
In October 1973, Rafael and his first wife, Graciela Margarita Moré, a New York elementary school teacher,were married in a civil service in New York City. Ada Inéz, their first and only child, was born two years later. They soon left the city for Westchester County, Briar Cliff where they purchased their first home, then Chappaqua, where he would happily spend all his remaining years. After a prolonged illness, Graciela predeceased him on June 14, 1990. He remarried several years later, to Ada Iris Pujols Torres. A Junior High School teacher of art and teacher trainer in the city, she brought a new fullness and joy into his life.
His daughter Ada Inéz's steady rock and ever-dependable superman, Rafael was, as well, something of a patriarch, general caretaker and always reliable go-to-guy to his many siblings, relatives, extended family, and friends. An amateur photographer, he took up photography as a hobby only to see it develop into a real passion, and himself transformed into an imaginative, authentically creative expert at it. He had a like fondness for his computers, loved the outdoors, fishing and camping especially, and his birds. New England, particularly Vermont, Massachusetts, and Martha's Vineyard, was among his favorite spots for camping trips, visits, and vacations by the water. Early on acquiring some experience in the food trades, he was an excellent cook, thoroughly enjoyed cooking and delighted in working at the grill. He likewise enjoyed traveling and, in the course of his travels to Europe, Africa and Latin America amassed an extraordinary collection of masks and artwork.
He is survived by his second wife, Ada Iris; his daughter, Ada Inez, a Dialysis Technician; his brothers Julio and Frankie Ferrer, sisters Julia, Clara, Ana, Juanita and Dolores ; and numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Much and very dearly loved by his many friends, co-workers and colleagues from "El Barrio," in the city at large, around the country and around the world, he will be very greatly missed. Having lived a long, vital, generous and genuinely giving adventure of a life, he leaves behind an enviable legacy and uncommon example of both long-enduring achievement, positive effect and continuing impact.
The Family will receive friends Sunday July 22 from 2 – 6 PM at the Beecher Flooks Funeral Home in Pleasantville. A Mass of the Christian Burial will be celebrated on Monday July 23 at 10:00 AM at the Church of St. John & St. Mary the Little Church. A interment will follow immediately after mass at Fair Ridge Cemetery in Chappaqua.