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DWI sign memorializes woman killed in 1987

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Chaves County Magistrate Judge K.C. Rogers and other family members of Maria D. "Buni" Ramirez sing the national anthem at a DWI memorial sign dedication Friday afternoon near North Main Street and Berrendo Road. (Trevier Gonzalez Photo)

Family, friends and advocates against drunken driving gathered along North Main Street Friday afternoon to memorialize the life of Maria D. “Buni” Ramirez, dedicating themselves to reducing the pain and suffering caused by lives lost in alcohol-related crashes.

K.C. Rogers looks above to see an image of his late sister-in-law as a newly dedicated DWI sign is unveiled Friday afternoon near the corner of North Main Street and Berrendo Road. Pictured above is an image of Maria D. “Buni” Ramirez, who was killed by a drunk driver shortly after turning 21. Next week marks the 30th year since Ramirez’s death. (Trevier Gonzalez Photo)

Thirty years ago next week, Ramirez, 21, who had moved to Roswell from Animas to live with family here, was killed by a drunk driver. About 60 people attended a memorial sign dedication Friday near North Main Street and Berrendo Road that will immortalize Ramirez as one of the faces of drunken driving fatalities.

“How do we cure drunk driving?” asked Alice Eppers, the incoming chair of the Chaves County DWI Planning Council, whose motto is “DWI crashes are totally preventable.”

“There are many people here today that are smarter than I. And so far, we haven’t come up with a problem-solving thing,” Eppers continued. “So if anybody has any suggestions, we are open for them. Our door is always open. If anybody has a suggestion, I am sure open, because we must cure this. We must stop DWIs because a very good family has lost one of their own.”

Chaves County Sheriff Britt Snyder, whose mother was killed by a drunk driver in 1991, said Friday’s gathering and sign dedication was a wonderful way to remember Ramirez, whose 51st birthday would have been Friday. The audience ended the event singing “Happy Birthday” to her.

“Her image and her memory will forever serve as a reminder to other people,” Snyder said.

The sheriff said DWI deaths in the state have dropped from 450 annually in 1991, to 130 to 140 a year now.

“That’s still way too many, but we have made tremendous progress,” Snyder said. “So hopefully, this sign today will serve to help lower those numbers even more.”

Snyder said the sign with Ramirez’s image, on land donated by Pioneer Bank, is the fourth such sign erected in Chaves County asking motorists not to drink and drive.

“There’s one on either side of the county building and there’s one at the fairgrounds that people drive by and see every day,” Snyder said.

Margaret Kennard, the niece of Ramirez, said the sign dedication ceremony evoked emotions felt 30 years ago at Ramirez’s funeral. Ramirez, a graduate of Animas High School, was the 15th of 17 children born to immigrant parents in southwestern New Mexico. Ramirez and her sister attended Roswell Beauty College.

“It’s almost like laying her to rest for a second time, opening up the wounds,” Kennard said. “Although she was killed by a drunk driver, more importantly, she lived, and we have hope that we will see her again.”

Kennard said she was 8 years old when her aunt was killed, and she recalls the devastation it caused her and her family.

“The family mourned the loss of this young, beautiful life. Buni had her whole life ahead of her, and she had a plan,” Kennard said. “She could have been a mom, she could have been anything, but she’s no longer here.”

Editor Jeff Tucker can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 303, or at editor@rdrnews.com.