Bradley University grieves for murdered couple

By Holly Eaton for Chronicle Media

Barbra Kerns, Bradley University executive director of Learning Design & Technology speaks at the Nov. 1 vigil for Antonio Ramirez Barron and Dr. Susan B. Brill De Rameriz. Kerns was friends with Antonio before they worked together at the university. (Photo by Holly Eaton/for Chronicle Media)

On what would have been his 64th birthday, Antonio Ramirez Barron and his wife Dr. Susan B. Brill De Rameriz were remembered Nov. 1 by faculty, staff and students at a Bradley University’s Michel Student Center vigil.

The couple died in their Princeville home Oct. 26 at the hands of their adopted son, Jose Guadeloupe Ramirez, 21. Their bodies were discovered Tuesday in the Spoon River, near Laura.

The son confessed to the murders after being arrested on Oct. 29, according to the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office.

Ramirez Barron was the university’s technology support specialist.

Brill De Ramirez was the Caterpillar Professor of English & Coordinator of Graduate Studies.

Bradley University President Gary Roberts and associate professor of English Demetrice Worley were among those who spoke at the vigil.

“The world has lost two great and very helpful souls this last week … two very talented individuals who had constantly been working to improve themselves and the institution they were members of for many years,” associate professor of English Seth Katz said at the vigil.

Susan Brill De Ramirez and Antonio Ramirez Barron, both 63,

Katz and De Rameriz were close; both shared roots in northern New Jersey, both came from Jewish families and shared a strong spiritual sense, he said. Both were University of Chicago students.

“It has not yet fully hit me that she is gone, and not coming back. When I hear someone’s boots clicking down the hall with a leisurely, short-legged stride, and it isn’t her coming into my office to talk… these conversations were inevitably rich, interesting and engaging,” he said. “Susan was knowledgeable about many things, interested in everything, and was always willing to study something new.”

De Ramirez was known as a devout practitioner of the Baha’I Faith, a religion which teaches the basic worth of all religion and views all people as equal. Her life was centered, Katz said, around the needs of others.

Bradley University senior Namoi Tornow prays during a moment of silence in honor of Antonia Ramirez Barron and Dr. Susan B. De Rarimez, who were murdered Oct. 26 in their home. On Nov. 1, university faculty held a vigil for the couple at the Michel Student Center. (Photo by Holly Eaton/for Chronicle Media)

“I keep imagining Susan in the terrible moments before her death, and, in my heart, I deeply believe that her last thought, her very last conscious thought was not about herself. I’m sure that her very last thought was a prayer, a prayer for Tony,” Katz said. “Most of all, a prayer for Jose, her adopted son, whom she and Tony had taken in and loved and tried so hard to save from the trauma of his early childhood.”

De Ramirez began her career at Bradley in 1991, almost a decade after her husband began working there. Barbra Kerns, executive director of Learning Design & Technology, said she knew Barron as a friend before they became colleagues.

“I knew Tony as a friend. He was even in my wedding,” Kerns recalled. “He was very humble. He never wanted to take credit for himself. He highlighted others’ contributions and downplayed his own.”

Those who knew him, she said, remember him as a “voracious knowledge-seeker”,  intelligent, curious and patient. Kerns’ address was peppered with witty anecdotes that brought light laughter to the audience of more than 200 people.

Kerns recalled the moment Barron approached his future wife at a local coffee shop and worked up the courage to ask her on a date. When De Ramirez didn’t respond, Barron analytically explained to her why they would make a good couple, and why she should date him.

Jane Hoffmire, left, Casey Hoffmire, center and cellist Carol Wessler performed Handel’s “Aria” at a Nov. 1 vigil at Bradley University Michel Student Center for the slain couple, Antonio Ramirez Barron and Dr. Susan B. Brill De Ramirez. (Photo by Holly Eaton/for Chronicle Media)

“As he described it, his persistence wore her down and she finally agreed,” Kerns said. “His analysis must have been pretty good, because it wasn’t long after that they were engaged.”

Dan Smith, associate chair of the Communications Department, said Barron was deeply proud of his wife, always shining a spotlight on her accomplishments

Since the couple’s deaths, much attention has been drawn to De Rameriz, who, among her lengthy list of achievements, authored nine books and spoke Spanish, French and Navajo.

“For eternity, Tony won this one, putting Susan in the spotlight,” Smith said.

A trio of musicians performed Handel’s Aria; Jane and Casey Hoffmire on violin, Carol Wessler on cello, and a Baha’I Faith of Peoria leader read “Prayer for the Dead.”

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