A Stitch In Time
Russellville, Ark - On a March afternoon, the sun shone brightly on the Arkansas Hospice River Valley Home in Russellville. Inside, a patient prepared to be interviewed about how he spent his life helping others, thanks to his sewing skills, while carefully preserving enough energy to work on his final project.
A native of Honduras, Darwin Torres Ramirez, known as "Flaco" to his friends, moved to the United States while in his early 20s. Now nearing his mid-50s, Flaco was completing the last chapter of his life -- and putting the final touches on his last creation, a dress being made for a friend's daughter.
Flaco learned how to sew from his grandmother in Honduras and put his talent into action here in the states. He has been credited with creating more than 40 masterpieces for beautiful young ladies' sweet 16 parties and 15th birthday celebrations also known as quinceaneras, weddings and other once-in-a-lifetime events.
When asked why Flaco devoted himself to helping others with his sewing skills, he responded, "It helps them look gorgeous."
Veronica Orozco, a friend who was assisting a weakened Flaco answer questions, was quick to respond when asked if the dresses were made for young ladies who were unable to buy them. "That's the whole reason," she said. "He makes dresses for people who normally cannot afford them. But here's the best part -- he buys all the materials himself. He will not let you give him a single dollar -- not one -- to help him," Orozco said.
When making a dress, Flaco didn't just work with the fabric. "You get the hair, you get the makeup, you get it all in one," Orozco said.
During the 26 years Flaco lived in the Dardanelle area, he expanded his skills for helping others beyond sewing. He earned quite the reputation as the "fashion police" of his continually growing circle of friends.
"He was always helping everyone -- both men and women -- with their hair, their clothing, decorations, anything that he could do to help improve their appearance," Orozco said. "We really don't know how many people he has helped because he does not like to take credit."
Flaco only agreed to an interview because, now that he was in hospice care, he wanted his family to know that he has done something special with his life. His extended family of aunts and cousins encouraged him to tell his story of the legacy he is leaving.
During his interview, Flaco was preserving his energy to put the final touches on his last creation, a beautiful, purple, sweet 16 dress for Orozco's daughter, Maria. A creative perfectionist, Flaco would not allow anyone else to finish his work.
"It will be amazing," Orozco said of this last dress, calling it "a treasure." To her, it will be worth more than any amount of money.
In the days after his interview, Flaco found the strength to finish the dress. While at the Arkansas Hospice River Valley Home, visitors poured in to express their gratitude for all that he has done.
Then, at 7:40 a.m. on March 22, Flaco Ramirez passed away. While Flaco's life has ended, his legacy lives on in the masterpieces he generously created -- and the joy that they brought to so many.