Ventura “Jenny” Perez Negron Was a 4’10” black, Puerto Rican woman who was very proud of her color and her culture. She was a very fearless person. As a mother, she was like a lion who would do anything to protect her cub. When her first husband, my biological father, beat her, kidnapped me, took me to Cuba and left me there, she stopped at nothing to raise the money to buy two airline tickets to go into Cuba at a very turbulent time to go and get her son back by herself.
When she brought me back to America she would always say that it would be you and me against the world. We would move from the Bronx to Brooklyn, New York where I would meet a grocery store worker. He took a strong liking to me. My Aunt Olga Perez would babysit me every day while my mom would go to work. She would take me to this bodega, where Cirilo Negron worked, to get her daily groceries. One day as I was sitting on the front stoop of our house with Aunt Olga, Cirilo walked by on his way home. He saw me and stopped and said “How would you like to come by my house and play catch.” At that moment my mom was standing right in back of him, just getting home from work. My aunt Olga had told Mom how kind Cirilo had been to me. All of a sudden my mom kiddingly startled and said to Cirillo, “Well if you take my son home you’re going to have to take the mom.” That was the start of a relationship that lasted for over 50 years.
In her youth, my mom was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Her inner beauty could never be surpassed by anyone, with the possible exception of God. She once told me that when she married Cirilo she didn’t really love him but she could tell how much he cared about me. That was the motivating factor in her eventually falling in love with him.
My mother would go back to school to get her education and become a teacher for the Board of Education. She would be a leader in the parents and teachers Association and always voiced her opinion on all important causes. She helped Cirilo start a very nice grocery store business in the decade of the 60s. It was called “Ciros Food Center” She and Cirilo would have two daughters, Nancy and Naomi.
Nancy would be like Cirilo, very nice and very mellow. Naomi more like Jenny, strong-willed, always ready to explode. But Jenny was the total package. She was for me, the perfect mom. She knew how to give love like no other and she was also a very strict disciplinarian. She always gave me enough rope to hang myself, however when the rope reached the end, she would give me some of the best ass kickings ever. She was never afraid of anyone. I remember during the 1960s when the black power movement started to really take off, she was at a PTA meeting. Talk got very heated between the parents and the teachers. As my mom was speaking someone said to her, “You don’t know about these issues you are Puerto Rican.” My mom screamed out, “Do you see my skin, it’s blacker than yours.” At that moment I said, “Mom please don’t.” I was scared because it was only me and her. But mom being mom she went to the next level and said, “And how would you like my little foot up your ass.” I said “Oh my God!” However everybody started laughing hysterically. Here was my tiny mother challenging the whole PTA, not even realizing that in her own way she actually brought everyone together with her courage. Or maybe she did know.
My mom had five brothers that she was so proud of that it was ridiculous how much. But I have to admit so was I. My Uncle Chris was in the Army, My Uncle Joaquin was in the Navy and my Uncle Roman was a Marine. My Uncle Hector was a golden gloves boxer and Champion, and my Uncle Vincent was in the book printing business. Uncle Vincent wasn’t a soldier or athlete but he was famous for always picking up beautiful women.
My mom had me hang out with my uncles at different times. She wanted me to learn from all of them, both good and bad. My Uncle Hector developed a very bad drug problem and my mom would use this situation to knock it into my head how bad drugs were. As in adult, this would help me in dealing with Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. My mother was also a very good negotiator. She had Cirilo adopt me as his son. She told my biological father that he wouldn’t have to pay child support if he agreed to this.
My new father, Cirilo, was the happiest person I have ever seen that day in court. I was happy too because I knew what a great man Cirilo was. I also knew how much he loved my mom. The thing that I love most about my mom was how proud she was of me when I was a Yankee bat boy. Mom and Cirilo only came to one game, but that’s all they needed to see. They met George Steinbrenner only once. I think my mom really liked him because he reminded her of her own father who was a very tough church minister, a no-nonsense kind of guy. She knew that there was a special bond between Mr. Steinbrenner and me and she loved it because she felt that the Boss would always watch out for me.
By the time I wrote my first two books, my mother was showing strong signs of Alzheimer’s but she was still mentally strong enough to enjoy and feel proud of my accomplishments. All of my accomplishments in life I owe to her because she was my foundation, my strength, she taught me how to be a parent. When she was a teacher she had me come to her school and talk to the kids and tell them what it was like to be a Yankee bat boy.
I cannot ever repay my mom for what he she has given me. This essay doesn’t even scratch the surface. When I used to watch her interact with her own mother, it was more like they were sisters. I used to say that when I had kids I wanted to have that kind of relationship with them. I think I do.
Yesterday my Mom died. She battled Alzheimer’s for almost ten years. It is such a horrible disease because to see someone so strong become so childlike at the end–it’s just devastating. My poor sisters had the very tough duties of caring for my mom until the very end. My father Cirilo cared for her until he got very sick. Last month he was given his last rights but refused to die. Now this poor man has to live out his last days without his best friend Jenny. Maybe that was his master plan. Maybe he just didn’t want to leave her behind. More questions that I will ask when I get to the other side.
The bottom line is that Jenny Negron was the most incredible woman that I have ever known. My God what a heart she had.
I have always been a dreamer and all she ever wanted was for me to follow my dreams. My whole life has been a magical mystery tour of which could not have happened without the incredible hopes and dreams that my mother, my friend, my soul had for her son. For her daughters.
Arrangements for Ventura “Jenny” Perez Negron
Reposing at Krauss Funeral Home
1097 Hempstead Turnpike
Franklin Square, NY 11010
Visiting Wednesday 2-5pm and 7-9pm