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BRONX TIMES REPORTER, M 56 ARCH 26-APR. 1, 2021 BTR
BY JASON COHEN
In 2017 Parkchester resident Jose
Ramon created the White Shirt Project,
which called attention to mental
health issues. Ramon, who impacted
many people, passed away March 14 at
Ramon died of ALS on the exact
one-year anniversary of his wedding.
Connie Pacheco was his best friend
and knew him for 30 years. It was quite
diffi cult for her to speak about Ramon
in the past tense. While Ramon left
behind his widow Albert Rodriquez,
Pacheco and he were inseparable. In
fact, he often called her “his sister.”
She met him in 1991 and instantly
they became friends. He loved dancing,
music and helping people.
“He was a great guy and an awesome
guy,” she said. “Joey was a self
Ramon was born in Puerto Rico,
but spent most of his life in the Bronx.
Pacheco explained that Ramon dealt
with depression and PTSD from being
molested at the hands of family members.
They bonded because she was assaulted
as a child as well. Knowing
there were many people out there often
afraid to talk about these issues or
other mental health problems, Ramon
launched the White Shirt Project and
it became quite popular.
A career photographer, he took pictures
of models, in black and white, using
only a white collar shirt covering
the torsos against a black backdrop
and a single overhead light source set
up. He asked a series of questions to
fi nd out what wearing a white shirt
evoked in a model’s mind and body. Ramon
created a platform for individuals
to come together and speak about mental
“There was this therapy with the
camera,” Pacheco said. “He was able
to relate to people because he had gone
through so much.”
In January 2020 everything
changed when he was diagnosed with
ALS. She pointed out that he had the
worst kind, as it affected his speech
and it became diffi cult for him to talk.
The disease hit him hard, she said.
He was a “tall husky good looking
man” and it caused him to lose a lot of
weight. Even during that she was still
his best man and saw him get married.
The late Jose Ramon with his best friend Connie
Pacheco. Courtesy of Connie Pacheco
“He just deteriorated right in front
of our eyes,” she stated. “I didn’t expect
that to happen that fast.”
Another close friend of Ramon’s
was Hector Santiago. He met the departed
eight years ago while Ramon
was taking photos at the beach.
He saw him again at an event in
the city and somehow got invited to a
party at Ramon’s house. From there
they became good friends and hung
out as couples often.
Santiago, a veteran and recovering
alcoholic, bonded over addiction with
“He trusted me with a lot of stuff,”
he said. “He pushed me to open my
own business. He was just a really giving
person. He made it possible for us
to speak freely and not be ashamed.”
Santiago who was writing a eulogy
for the funeral, noted that Ramon suffered
a lot of pain in his life, but always
put other people fi rst.
“He was a funny guy and a he
brought a lot of laughter to people,” he
said emotionally. “He never showed
people he was depressed. He had no
money, but he had a lot of intellect.”
A GoFundMe was started to help
raise money for the White Shirt Project.
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