Jose Ramirez: Plant Operation’s Jack of All Trades

Rain, snow or sleet, Ramirez does whatever labor is required of him to keep all 156 acres of the Ammerman campus’ landscape safe and picture-perfect year-round. The strenuous work and long hours Ramirez puts in each day with a smile make him an unsung hero of our community.


Leanne Pastore

Jose Ramirez, 26, of Selden, cuts down trees in Parking Lot 7 on October 26, 2022. Ramirez has been an auto equipment operator on the Ammerman campus for four years.

Leanne Pastore, Editor-in-Chief

Auto equipment operator Jose Ramirez woke up at 5:30 a.m. on Oct. 26 and made a pot of coffee to kick-start his day. An hour later, he dashed out the door of his Selden home with only 15 minutes to spare before his shift began at 7 a.m. He climbed into the cab of his beloved ‘05 Ford F150 and blasted Taylor Swift’s latest album, “Midnights,” for the duration of his 7-minute-long trip to the Ammerman campus. His task for the day was to trim every tree in Parking Lot 7 before his shift ended at 3 p.m.

“I do it all,” Ramirez said with a chuckle, turning and motioning to the trees behind him while dragging a large, freshly cut branch to a white Plant Operations pickup truck.

Ramirez was hired by Campus Labor Crew Leader Stephen Durkel in 2018, who has been working on the Ammerman campus for 41 years and described him as respectful, consistent and a self-starter.

“He’s always in for the snow. And he always stays for the duration, where you have some people that will come in for a couple of hours, and all of a sudden, ‘I got to go home.’ But Jose–I think he stuck with us once for 36 hours straight,” said Durkel, 68, of Mastic.

Ramirez is among the many staff members who play crucial roles in helping the 156-acre Ammerman campus function every day yet are rarely known to students.

“I think this campus is beautiful, and they do a great job maintaining it,” said Savanna Sierra, an 18-year-old liberal arts major from Shirley who has never met Ramirez. “I see them every morning when I come to campus. They’re always working hard, and they always say hello to me,” she added.

Ramirez’s younger sister, Maria Ramirez, a 20-year-old biology major at Suffolk, described her brother as “happy and hardworking” during his childhood and years as a young adult. Ramirez was born on July 25, 1996, in Hidalgo, Mexico, where he spent the first year of his life before his parents, older brother Sabino and himself relocated to Selden in 1997. He graduated from Newfield High School in 2014 and enrolled as a liberal arts major at Suffolk the same year.

After completing two semesters, he applied to Suffolk’s theatre arts program. Although he was accepted, he was still unsure of the direction to take, so he took two years off to find his way. He worked part-time at Corner Heroes in Selden for the duration but had a falling out with his boss, which caused him to quit. He was unemployed for approximately two months before a chance conversation with his next door neighbor, who heard his predicament and mentioned to Ramirez that the campus was hiring laborers for its plant operations department.

Four years later, Ramirez, who said he has “always had a green thumb,” is one of four auto equipment operators working on the Ammerman campus.

“He’s great with the equipment and he’s good at motivating other people to work and making sure they are safe with everything. He’s good that way. That’s why I like working with him,” said Andrew Brisciano, 27, a Miller Place resident.

Ramirez rarely has downtime between working on the Ammerman campus and two additional jobs. He is on call to help with his father’s masonry business year-round, typically helping out three to four times in a week. It’s something he has done since he was a child. He also is a crew member on the Osprey, a fishing boat sailing out of Port Jefferson Harbor from May to November. He often goes weeks without a day off.

When he finally has time to unwind, his favorite way to spend his downtime is listening to his favorite artists like Harry Styles and Taylor Swift, sometimes staying up all night to listen through their discographies and shelling out entire paychecks to see them live. His life has been deeply impacted by music: Ramirez’s dream job is to travel the world as a music critic.

Although he is unsure of his next steps or what the future holds, for Ramirez, happiness is not defined by the career path he will take or how much money he makes.

“I’m a simple man. If I can listen to my music and go fishing, I’m happy. I never thought I’d operate machinery. I thought I would go to school, and get a degree. I don’t mind the work, but the best part of the job is definitely the people.”