Tom Ramos


Tom Ramos didn’t know that his family was one of the first Mexican families in the Mahoning Valley until his wife read a recent publication by the League of Women Voters of Greater Youngstown and Youngstown State University.  According to “The Citizen’s Guide to Youngstown,” Tom’s father, Tomas, arrived in 1917 because railroad and steel mill jobs were plentiful.  But the pull of employment in Ohio told only half of the story.  Though the elder Ramos rarely talked of the past, Tom eventually learned about the circumstances that pushed his father out of Mexico. A policy of land redistribution following the Mexican Revolution resulted in a government seizure of the Ramos’s family ranch.

Tom’s parents lived in Texas, Colorado and Iowa before settling down on Superior Street in Youngstown’s Brier Hill neighborhood.  By that time, there were five children in the Ramos family.  Three more were born in Youngstown including Tom, the youngest of eight.   He described ethnically diverse Brier Hill as an ideal place to grow up.

Neither his father nor his mother ever learned English, instead relying on the children to serve as their interpreters.  Although many of the city’s Mexican families lived in a different neighborhood known as Monkey’s Nest, Tom recalled that his parents were very connected to the Mexican community. In fact, Tom’s father was one of the original founders of the Sociedad Mutualista Mexicana.  Once Tom was old enough to drive his father to the meetings, he was old enough to join the club.  As he and his friends, James Berroteran and Frank Nolasco, became more active, the club became more involved with the greater Youngstown Community. Tom’s ties to the Mexican culture remained strong because his parents always considered Mexico to be their home.

Not long after Tom graduated from Rayen High School, he was drafted into the Army.  Upon his discharge, he used the G.I. Bill to attend Youngstown State University.  For a while, Tom juggled evening classes with a day job at Republic Steel.  However, his commitment to education grew stronger when he decided to work evenings and attend school during the day, a change that fostered greater engagement with the university.  He graduated with a business degree and became a business education teacher and coach at Hubbard High School, retiring after three decades as an educator. He passed along the value of education to his children, too,   a remarkable legacy considering that Tom was the only one in his family to graduate from high school.

Because Tom’s wife of more than fifty years, Carrie, is Italian, Ramos family holidays combine Mexican and Italian traditions.  Tortillas are off their menu, though, because they contain too much lard for Tom’s current habit of healthy eating.  Still, Tom fondly remembers how his mother made tortillas fresh every day. He’s also proud of his years as an active member of the Youngstown Mexican Club, and continues to keep in touch with members while enjoying a healthy and active retirement.

You can read the full transcript of Esther Newman’s interview with Tom Ramos.

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