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Don Luis Makes Final Return To Ponce... Luis Ferré: A Man of Faith... Thousands Bid Farewell at Capitol... Employees Free to Attend Funeral... Schools Close for Funeral... Calderon Regrets Don Luis Passing... Former Governors Praise Ferré

Ferre Returns To His Beloved Museum

By Proviana Colon Diaz - WOW News Editor

October 24, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE — It was one of his most cherished creations; he used to walk its halls, play the piano for hours, or sit in front of a particular painting and observe it tirelessly.

On Thursday, the body of former Gov. Luis A. Ferre returned for the last time to his beloved Ponce Museum of Art.

Defying the typical burning sun of this southern municipality and later a light but constant rain in the afternoon, thousands of people waited in line outside the museum to pay their last respects to one of Ponce’s most prestigious citizens.

Heavy traffic would delay the arrival of the funeral procession, but the crowd waited in order. At exactly 5:30 p.m. and as the motorcycle police turned the corner of Las Americas Avenue, the crowd left the area where they had been waiting, in front of the Catholic University fence, and crossed the street to the museum.

It was as if Ponce had taken to the streets to be with the man many called a dad - Papa Ferrer.

Minutes later and as the funeral car approached the museum, a massive standing ovation was spontaneously given by the crowd. Spectators would continue to applaud until the casket was no longer in view when members of the National Guard took the body inside the museum.

As the casket, covered with the Puerto Rican and U.S. flags entered the museum, the Catholic University Choir sang Ponce’s anthem. It was then that tears began to show in the eyes of Ferre’s daughter, Rosario.

Inside the Lincoln Hall, in front of Francisco Zurbaran’s "Christ at the Cross" and surrounded by several Spanish and French paintings from the 16th and 18th century, everyone knew Ferre had come home.

"Take care of it. This museum belongs to all of you. Keep it safe," said the teary-eye widow, Tiody de Jesus.

The late philanthropist founded the museum in 1959 with 71 paintings of his private collection. It was then located at a much smaller facility but also in Ponce.

As Ferre’s collection grew, the need for a larger space was evident. Thus, the current facility, which now houses over 3,000 works, was built.

Just as thousands of residents of the southern part of the island visited the museum, so did several political figures, not only from the party that he founded such as New Progressive Party President Carlos Pesquera, Former Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo and Yauco Mayor Abel Nazario, but also members of the Popular Democratic Party.

Such is the case of Ponce Mayor Rafael Cordero Santiago and Juana Diaz Mayor Juan Hernandez.

The body of Ferre will be at the museum until midnight and will be buried Friday in a private ceremony.

Archbishop Gonzalez: ‘Don Luis Was A Man Of Faith’

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

October 24, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

The life of former Gov. Luis A. Ferre was celebrated Thursday in a funeral Mass at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Santurce, attended by hundreds of Puerto Ricans, including politicians, artists, and businesspeople.

San Juan Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez, who returned from the papal anniversary celebrations in Rome to celebrate the Mass, said Ferre was a man of faith and described him as a Catholic who practiced charity and prayer.

"A friend of mine who is a priest told me that a long time ago, he saw a man praying alone at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington [D.C.]. He told me that he saw the man and got near him because he seemed familiar. The man was on his knees; his eyes were closed. He was praying to Jesus in front of the sanctuary. That man was Don Luis, at the time he was governor. He was there without reporters or cameras. That moment lacked political relevance, but it was an example of the relationship Ferre had with Jesus. He was a man who knew that the power he held was subordinate to the power of the divine," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said Ferre’s life is an invitation "to the ones we dare to call leaders to live their lives while serving others and not themselves. It’s a call to look for the good and not for power. [Ferre’s life] is an example of the love for justice, for peace, for freedom. . .It’s an invitation to create a place for dialog, and above all, to respect all, especially those we differ from, preserving the Puerto Rico we all love."

He mentioned that Ferre made possible the establishment of the Catholic university that is now called Pontifical and said the governor and philanthropist was the product of a Christian family devoted to the church. He said through his family, Ferre and his beloved sister Isolina learned the values of love and charity.

"His family was the first church for them, at which they learned the vocation for serving others," he said.

Ferre’s casket arrived at the church just after 1 p.m. accompanied by his widow Tiody, his children, and his grandchildren. Hundreds lined Ponce de Leon Avenue to bid farewell. People threw flowers, applauded, and uttered thanks to Ferre for his cultural and political legacy.

Before the casket was wheeled into the church, the crowd sang a popular farewell song: "I say farewell with my heart, although my soul can’t. While saying goodbye to you, I feel like I’m also dying. You are my goodwill to my life and my soul, and you’ll be the bird warbling next to my window every morning."

Inside the church, music was performed by Concerto, directed by maestro Henry Hutchison.

"Today, the friend of all artists leaves us. I dedicate these melodies to him from the bottom of my heart," said Hutchinson, who recalled Ferre’s enthusiasm for music.

Hutchison had shared the stage with Ferre many times. He said the piano was part of Ferre’s life and that he supported all artists.

"We shared our love for music at a level I cannot describe," he added.

Prof. Carmen Acevedo Lucio directed Escolania Chorale, which performed "O vos omens" and "Alleluia" by Venezuelan composer Inocente Carreño, the "Sanctus" composed by Franz Shubert, and "I Believe in God" by Tito Lara.

Puerto Rican singer Wilkins, one of Ferre’s favorites, came from Argentina to pay his respects and sang "I have a new love" acapella.

During the Mass, Ferre’s widow cried several times, including when the congregation gave Ferre a standing ovation.

The ceremony began on time and was conducted with a sense of solemnity that at one point was interrupted when dozens of people who came to the church were denied entry and demanded to be admitted.

The archbishop asked that the doors be opened to admit the people, but the State Department ushers who controlled the entrances did not do so.

Thousands Bid Ferre Farewell At Capitol

By Joanisabel Gonzalez-Velazquez of WOW News

October 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Music was a great part of his life. He recorded several albums and played the piano all the time. He even had one in his office. Therefore, it should be no surprise that music was also with him in his death.

On Wednesday, Puerto Rican and classical melodies were performed by a violinist, a cellist, and a pianist, which served as a tribute to former Gov. Luis A. Ferre, whose body was placed in the Capitol rotunda, where thousands of Puerto Ricans paid their respects to the third Puerto Rican governor.

At 6 p.m., the line outside the Capitol of people waiting to go in extended to Constitution Avenue. Before entering the rotunda, people signed a memory book placed by the Ferre family and received a memoriam card.

"You’ll see me again, transfigured, happy, enjoying my walk through the path of light and life; at the feet of God, drinking an elixir from which no one will never be satisfied. For that reason, dry your tears and don’t cry if you love me," said the gratitude card.

Along with common people, politicians, civic leaders, art experts, and businesspeople gathered at the Capitol to tribute Ferre and express their sympathy to the Ferre family.

"Don Luis was a dreamer, a visionary," said New Progressive Party President Carlos Pesquera, who like the party’s founder, is an engineer graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Pesquera said Ferre’s legacy will endure generations but Ferre’s social, cultural, and political legacy must be complemented through resembling his peaceful style in politics and his initiatives in favor of the people and social justice.

Biblical Society Secretary Rev. Wilfredo Estrada said Ferre was a man who transcended his political leadership to become a leader of the people.

He praised his ability to unite people and his respect for others, especially those with opposite visions.

Estrada highlighted Ferre’s spiritual virtues and said his living as a Christian by imitating Jesus’ teachings is a revival at a time when religiosity is widely criticized.

Businessman Bartolome Gamundi praised Ferre’s faith in people and interest in arts and culture.

"Don Luis has not died; he transcended everything. [. . .] He loved art; he did not have any reason to create a museum, but he founded it," Gamundi stated.

According to Gamundi, who will preside the museum’s gala this year, Ferre is a model for entrepreneurs because he taught how to combine economic development, sensibility, social development, and culture.

He said Ferre was a successful man in many aspects of daily life and described Ferre’s sensibility and good sense of humor as two of his finest attributes.

Art expert Carmen Ruiz de Fischler, who headed Ferre’s Ponce Museum of Art, said the philanthropist gave her the opportunity to learn about art after she pursued her doctorate in art history.

Ruiz de Fischler, who expressed her sorrow for the loss of one of Puerto Rico’s luminaries, said Ferre was a generous man who helped many to complete their academic preparation.

The art expert said Ferre’s vision made possible the loom up of arts in the island. She said the galleries, exhibits, and new museums that Puerto Ricans enjoy are due to the efforts of Ferre.

She noted that Ferre also made possible the establishment of the first conservation laboratory in Puerto Rico and that he paid special attention to the accreditation of the museum, something she worked on along with him.

"Everything I know about museums, I learned it at the Ponce’s Museum of Art, and Don Luis used to tell me: ‘you’ve earned your second doctorate here,’" she said.

"Don Luis had a wish. . . He wanted a Rembrandt. Now, is our turn to get one for him" she added.

Government Employees May Attend Ferre’s Funeral

October 21, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – Gov. Sila Calderon said Tuesday that all public employees who wish to pay their respects to former Gov. Luis A. Ferre and attend his funeral may take Thursday off as a vacation day.

"It seems only fair that those people who wish to attend the burial be allowed to take the hours or day against their vacation time," Calderon said.

Calderon said that per her request, following the burial there will be a religious service at La Fortaleza, where Ferre lived from 1969 to 1972.

"It won’t take place right now, but it will happen in the coming days," Calderon said following a press conference in Caimito, Rio Piedras.

After her brief public appearance, Calderon cancelled all her activities, returned to the executive mansion, and declared five days of national mourning in memory of Ferre.

For the next five days, the flags at all government offices will be flown at half-staff.

Ferre, a philanthropist, statesman, and father of the statehood movement in the commonwealth, died Tuesday at age 99.

Don Luis had been hospitalized for several weeks. He died in the company of several of his closest relatives and his wife Tiody.

No Classes In Public Schools Friday

October 22, 2003
Copyright © 2003 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) – The Education Department announced that the island’s public schools would be closed Friday as a sign of respect for former Gov. Luis A. Ferre, whose funeral has been rescheduled for that day.

Education Secretary Cesar Rey said classes would be held as usual Thursday.

Gov. Sila Calderon also announced that public employees could take Friday as a vacation day to attend the funeral of the former governor.

Calderon indicated that Thursday would be a normal working day because the funeral of the former governor was changed.

According to a press release, the free day applies to all public employees except those who provide essential government services.

Officials said agencies and municipalities should take the necessary measures to ensure the government’s essential services are not affected; non-essential employees who wish to work Friday may do so.

Ferre, philanthropist, statesman, and the father of the statehood movement of Puerto Rico, died Tuesday at age 99.

The former governor will be buried Friday in his hometown of Ponce.

Calderon, Former Governors Regret Ferre’s Passing

By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News

October 22, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW NEWS. All rights reserved. 

Gov. Sila Calderon and former Govs. Pedro Rossello and Rafael Hernandez Colon expressed their sorrow over the death of New Progressive Party (NPP) founder Luis A. Ferre.

"Don Luis was characterized by his devotion to the purest democratic values, his spirit and love for Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico loses a man of principle who dedicated his life to his ideals, his family, and his country," Calderon said in a prepared statement.

As a sign of respect, the governor ordered that the U.S. and Puerto Rican flags be flown half-staff for the next seven days. She also allowed government employees to take a vacation day to attend Ferre’s burial in his hometown of Ponce on Thursday.

Rossello expressed regret on behalf of his wife, former first lady Irma Margarita Nevares.

"More than a former governor, NPP founder, philanthropist, and patron of the arts, Don Luis was an exemplary statesman and an honorable representative of the best of our land," Rossello said in a prepared statement.

The former governor, who will run against NPP President Carlos Pesquera for the gubernatorial candidacy Nov. 9, praised Ferre for his legacy and his vision of a better Puerto Rico.

"We ask God to keep Don Luis forever in his glory and to fill his family with faith and tranquility," Rossello said.

Hernandez Colon, who, like Ferre, is a Ponce native, said he was deeply saddened by the death of the pro-statehood leader.

Earlier this year, Ferre attended the funeral of Hernandez Colon’s wife, former first lady Lila Mayoral, who died of cancer shortly after being diagnosed with the disease.

"He leaves an enormous emptiness in all of us who knew him. He leaves notable contributions to the island in art, politics, and government," Hernandez Colon said.

Puerto Rican Independence Party President Ruben Berrios, who will be running for governor in 2004, also had words of solidarity for the Ferre family.

"He was a gentleman of politics, a kind but tenacious fighter who tirelessly defended his convictions, always respecting the others. He died as he lived: fighting," Berrios said in a prepared statement.

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