Friday, September 08, 2006


Juan Nieves was 56 years old in September 2001. He lived with his wife and four children in the Bronx. He is remembered as a loving father and husband, a devoted and loving uncle and brother, a dedicated worker, and a great all-around person.

For nearly 30 years, "Johnny" worked in the kitchen of the world-renowned Russian Tea Room, making salads and appetizers. When the restaurant underwent a major renovation, he lost his job. His wife had postpartum depression and could not work. He was about 50 at the time, had no pension, and had never finished high school. Any of those factors would have sent most people spiralling into panic. But not Juan - that was not the kind of person that he was. He found a job making salads at another world-renowned restaurant, Windows on the World, for $7 an hour and worked hard to support his family. He set a wonderful example for his children and his family, as well as those who worked with him and knew him in the everyday course of life.

Every weekend, he took his children to the beach or the park or the pool. He liked to be with his children so much that his older sister had to keep telling him that they were teenagers now and wanted to be with their buddies. If he was not with his children, he was with his brother and sister or tooling around in his mint-condition 1967 Mustang, which was new when he bought it. On September 9, 2001, he and his brother and sister went to South Street Seaport, where he pointed to the top of the north tower and proudly told them, "That's where I work."

The respect that Juan had among his family, friends, and co-workers is, in and of itself, an outstanding tribute to him.

A former co-worker at both the Russian Tea Room and Windows had this to say:

I, too, had the fortune of working with Johnny for over 6 years at the Russian Tea Room, and then had the chance of welcoming him at Windows on the World when the Russian Tea Room closed down for renovations. I have only good memories about Johnny, of how dedicated a worker he was. Solidarity was a quality that I discovered in him when I received a message from my family in South America that my father had died. Johnny took the initiative of taking a money collection amongst all workers at the Tea Room and handed me an envelope with the money I need to buy me a ticket to go to my country and assist with the funeral. Johnny; you still live in my heart! May you have found the peace and rest in the arms of God, and may God bless your family!!!!!

That's the kind of person that Juan was.

And from a family member:

My cousin was the best Golden Gloves camp. We were so proud of him always. He came to live with us for awhile, he was more than a cousin, he was my brother too. We will always love you and never forget you. You cannot take out part of a heart. you are part of ours. I love you Pito. I will never forget how you would sing to me and I would fall asleep.

And that's also the kind of person that Juan was.

You cannot take out part of a heart, you are part of ours - - even those of us who never had the pleasure of meeting you. You have touched so many lives and you will never be forgotten.

God Bless You, Johnny.


Teena in Toronto said...

What a great tribute! He is no longer just a name to me.

Mine's up.

Juliness said...

Beautifully written! I feel as if I know him now too.

Miss Chris said...

Thank you for writing such a beautiful tribute.

MrsGreenThumb said...

Good job, you have written a meaningful tribute to an American who took care of his family and did his job. He was loved, and he loved life. My heart goes out to his family. He will not be forgotten.
Visit my site to read about Catherine A. Nardella. Like Juan, she loved her family and impacted many lives.
I feel privileged to participate in the 2996 project.

Dana Huff said...

That was a beautiful tribute.

bernie said...

Thank you.

I linked to your tribute from 2996 tribute to victims of 9/11 - Terrence E Adderley

dmmgmfm said...

That was a beautiful tribute. Thank you.

Suzi said...

On $7 an hour he was supporting a family of six! And he helped a man get home for his father's funeral. Not only his family but this nation lost when he was killed.

It hurts to remember. But it would hurt worse to forget.

Laura Gilly was also in the WTC.