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Orlando Sentinel

Proud Veteran Nicholas Ruiz, 69, Loved His Family

By Jon Steinman

January 21, 2002
Copyright © 2002
Orlando Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

Nicholas Nieves Ruiz, one of 13 children, arrived on the United States mainland at 17 -- and promptly enlisted in the U.S. Army. His father had sent him on a mission to better his life, and Ruiz did better than even that -- he improved himself and helped his country win the biggest war ever.

Ruiz, 69, who had been in failing health for nearly a year since a car accident last April, died Friday of liver failure. He had survived action in both World War II and in Korea.

"He never wanted to move back to Puerto Rico, where he was from," said Yolanda Nieves of Kissimmee, his only daughter. "He was so Americanized. He loved his country so much."

At the funeral home Sunday, one of Ruiz's last wishes lay answered near his grieving family: a red, white and blue wreath resembling the U.S. flag.

The events of Sept. 11 sent a chill through him, but it wasn't necessary to rekindle his patriotism. His love of country never waned, even in the years preceding the current flag-waving, his daughter said.

"He was so shocked by the things that happened," Nieves said.

"He never dreamed it could happen. It was painful for him."

An energetic family man, he relished sharing old war stories from Europe with his family as much as a weekend baseball outing with his church team. Among the legions whom Ruiz impressed with the force of his friendliness was his wife, Carmen, who has 47 years of marriage to cherish, Nieves said.

Ruiz loved old movies, the black-and-white kind produced during Hollywood's first golden age.

Nieves said Ruiz read everything he could find on John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, fascinated with an age he lived through and still adored as optimistic.

"He loved everything about his country, and he loved history," Nieves said.

He retired to Kissimmee seven years ago, after taking a shine to the region's sunny weather. "It reminded him of the island," his daughter said.

Ruiz was a buyer for Susan Thomson Inc. He was Roman Catholic.

Ruiz also is survived by sisters, Rafaela Nieves and Laura Nieves of Boston, Hilda Nieves of Miami and Carmen Nieves of Puerto Rico; brother, Hacinto Nieves of Virginia and two grandchildren.

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