Evaristo Martinez-Rivera

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CO E 1952-1953



My father,  Evaristo Martinez Rivera (known to his friends as “Baro”), was born on 10/26/1930. However, due to several long stories. My dad’s legal birth date is 12/28/1930, which is what appears on his official birth certificate. (Ask me about the stories and I’ll share them with you.)  Growing up, my siblings and I, unaware of the Puerto Rican stories surrounding his birth date, always celebrated my dad’s birthday on 10/26/30. Many years later, as an adult and assisting my parents in medical and legal matters (as their advocate), is how I discovered his legal birth date was actually 12/28/1930.  Then after many questions, correcting of the record, etc., and given the fact that 12/28 was too close to Christmas, it was decided we would continue to celebrate his birthday on the day he was actually born, 10/26.  It worked out well for everyone, especially my dad, who wasn’t cheated out of birthday gifts. Because, after all, isn’t that what’s most important!

My dad was born during the Great Depression in the United States [and far worse] on the island of Puerto Rico, in the town of Naguabo. His parents were Aguedo Martinez (b. 1900, d. unknown) and Juana Rivera (b.1903, d. 12/22/2001; 98 years old). He was the third of four children. He outlived them all.  My dad’s father passed away of a heart attack when my dad was a child.  To help his mother, in addition to attending school, my dad started working in the sugar canes at the age of 12 and unfortunately, it was also at this age he started the vice of smoking cigarettes. Inspite of my dad’s child labor and vice, he was able to complete Junior High School (9th grade). A major accomplishment for those times!

After being drafted, on November 29, 1951, my father started serving in the Army of the United States of America. He was stationed at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico. He fought in the Korean War from 1951- 1953. After completing two combat missions in the war, he continued his military service in the U.S. Army Reserve until his Honorable Discharge on November 30, 1959 (the month and year I was born). My dad never spoke of his Army experience. I can’t begin to imagine what he saw, had to do, and what he underwent and endured during those years at war.

It would be many years later, in 2019, when I was reviewing his Army discharge papers that I discovered perhaps one of the reasons why he remained silent on his Army service. His papers stated my dad had been MIA for three (3) days. I was stunned and saddened by this fact. I could only surmise this was one of the reasons he never spoke of the experience. I never pressed him on the matter.  According to his discharge papers, my dad earned several commendations for his military service. He earned the Korean Service Medal w/2 Bronze Stars; the United Nations Service Medal; the Combat Infantryman Badge; and a National Defense Service Medal. We are so very proud of our amazing brave father!

In approximately 1958 , my dad met the love of his life, my mother, Petra Navarreto Velazquez, also from Naguabo. Both had been divorced from their first marriages; my mother having had two sons (Gilbert and Billy).  It was an extremely short courtship for my parents, because I was born in November, 1959!  There would be another child for them, my youngest brother Miguel, in 1961.  In the late 1950’s, my dad came to the mainland to work. He first worked in the state of Florida. After marrying my mother, and having a family, he wanted to relocate us to Florida. However, (as I was told), my mother had a great fear of snakes and refused to come live in Florida. My mother’s brother, Ismael, was living in Philadelphia, Pa., at the time, and offered to help my dad find employment and housing in Philadelphia. My mother was much more keen on moving to Philadelphia in 1965, where I gather she felt safe from the snakes.

My father worked hard, along with my mother, and provided a good life for himself, his wife, and children. We lived a blessed life. We were considered the working poor, but we were rich both naturally and spiritually. After all, we traveled back and forth to our parents’ and grandparents’ home in our sweet Caribbean island many times; especially during our school summer vacations. Only rich kids do that!   Life was good! We were grateful!

My father loved and adored his wife, my mom. They were married for over 43 years until her passing on 12/4/2001. As if that were not enough, his loving mother passed two weeks after his wife’s passing. Our father showed us what true strength and resolve looks like in the midst of great loss.  He found comfort, with the love of his family and his faith, to continue his life as a father,  grandfather, and eventually as a great-grandfather.

In 2016, at the age of almost 86, and due to his poor health, he moved in with me. His health continued to deteriorate due to his many ailments, but you would never imagine he was so very ill because of his inner strength, which only came from the Lord. He was and the strongest man I know.  At the age of 90 after battling these many illnesses and having fought the good fight, the Lord said, “Enough! Time to come home, my good and faithful servant.”  My dad took his last breath from this world, at home, surrounded by his loved ones, on the morning of March 25th, 2021. He entered into the arms of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ for all eternity! He is now at peace.

My father was a wonderful son, a soft spoken man, a loving husband/father/grandfather, and great grandfather, with a great dry humorous wit, and a special sweet embrace. All who knew him loved him and he loved all he knew.  My father was truly an amazing man. I never heard my dad raise his voice or speak a foul word, certainly not in my presence. He will be greatly missed. We will remember him always.

We, those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, will all one day see and celebrate with my dad again, when we meet our Savior Face to Face! Until then, beloved Evaristo Martinez Rivera (Baro), we say, “Until we see you again, Bendición Pop. Bendición Papa.”

John 16:22 The Passion Translation 

[Jesus said] “So will you also pass through a time of intense sorrow when I am taken from you, but you will see me again! And then your hearts will burst with joy, with no one being able to take it from you!”

This was my father’s hope and this is our hope. The hope of Glory in Christ Jesus!  Submitted by his daughter, Maria D. Martinez.