Cook-Wiss community remembers fallen nephew of beloved teacher

Members of the Cook-Wissahickon community unveiled a bench in memory of New York City Detective Raphael Ramos on Thursday night. Ramos was one of two New York City police officers killed in the line of duty in December.

The incident drew national attention and inflamed tensions between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his police force.

Raphael Ramos was the nephew of Jose Ramos, an eighth-grade literacy teacher and organizer of the school’s native meadow initiative.

Fellow teacher Diane Powers welled up as she spoke of Ramos’ dedication as a teacher, leader of service projects, meadow maker, model UN advisor and faculty sponsor of the baseball team.

“The first thing we asked,” she said of the faculty upon hearing the news about Raphael Ramos, “was, what can we do for Jose?”

A tearful sister, Luz Ramos, who came down from New York with other family members thanked those assembled. 

“I have always looked up to him,” she said of Ramos, adding that she was moved to see how many others do as well.

Standing by in solidarity stood representatives of the Philadelphia Police Department. Powers called it a gesture of good will from Philly to its rival city. 

The plaque reads: “Memory Bench in Honor of NYPD Detective Raphael Ramos. Love. Honor. Respect.”

On hand was Fourth District Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., who committed $5,000 to the school’s meadow project. He’s  already supported the meadow — 10 years in the making — to the tune of $4,000, but he surprised community residents on Thursday night with the offer of more.

The native plants meadow is a part of a project that envisions a thorough redesign of the campus, but already has reshaped the curriculum in science and other subjects.

Students learn about how native grasses protect against erosion, pollution and attract native wildlife, but also use it for inspiration in literacy classes.

State Rep. Pam DeLissio’s representative, Leza Perkins, spoke of her days as an elementary school teacher and the value of outdoor environmental education for children.

“These are learning experiences that cannot be replicated in the classroom,” she said.

Also unveiled on Thursday was a sign explaining the meadow to neighbors, who have sometimes mistaken its wild nature for another sign of the school funding crisis. 

An earlier version of this article said Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. was giving $1,000 to the meadow project. He is giving $5,000. NewsWorks regrets the error.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.