Former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Dan Ramirez, battling the onset of Lou Gehrigs disease, on Monday was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of North Carolinas highest honors.
Gov. Pat McCrory returned home Monday afternoon to present the award to Ramirez during a ceremony at the uptown Government Center.
Dans kindness, determination, fortitude and integrity are inspirational, McCrory said. The governor added that Ramirez and wife, Cecy, recently appointed vice chairwoman of his advisory council on Hispanic/Latino affairs, are true examples of North Carolinians who have lived lives devoted to the service of others.
After the ceremony, Ramirez said he was honored and surprised to get the award.
Its nice to be recognized, but I was not looking for it, he said. It is nice when it comes.
The award, first presented in 1963, is given by the governor for extraordinary service, a special achievement, contributions to the recipients community or a gesture of good will.
The two Republicans have been friends and political allies for 14 years, having met at political gatherings. It was McCrory, a former seven-term Charlotte mayor, who urged Ramirez to run for political office, Ramirez said Monday.
In 2002, he won an at-large seat on the commissioners board, becoming Mecklenburgs first Latino elected to office.
He won another term in 2006.
Last year, Ramirez was diagnosed with ALS amyotrophic lateral sclerosis commonly known as Lou Gehrigs disease.
He is using the determination and fortitude that McCrory spoke of to fight the disease for himself and others.
Hes become an advocate for the Joe Martin ALS Foundation, named for Charlotte banker and author Joe Martin, who died in 2006, a dozen years after his diagnosis.
For now, Ramirez said, the disease has stabilized but he has trouble talking. After he was diagnosed he retired from Nova Digital Systems, the geographical information systems company he started in 1978.
Ramirez grew up poor in Bogota, Colombia, but got a college degree in civil engineering that took him, Cecy and their first daughter to the United States in 1970. They arrived in Charlotte four years later.
He said Monday that his parents upbringing trained him well for his current fight.
They told me when you have a situation that you fall down, you get up and continue, he said. That is what I am doing.
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