San Antonio, TX – Houston Police Department Senior Officer Norberto Ramon, who heroically rescued hundreds of people during the historic flooding of Hurricane Harvey as he simultaneously battled terminal cancer, passed away on Friday.
“Today our @houstonpolice family lost a great colleague, husband, father, friend, cop, hero, with the passing of Senior Police Officer Norberto Ramon,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a tweet. “He served honorably for nearly 25 years.”
Officer Ramon, 56, was diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer following a routine colonoscopy in 2016 and was told he might have six to eight years to live, WFAA reported.
He began receiving chemotherapy, but said he made it a point not to dwell on what might lie ahead.
“I put it past me. Once I’m done with my chemo, I’m just plugging away like I don’t even have it,” Officer Ramon told WFAA in September of 2017. “I don’t research it. Because if you research it, it’s doom and gloom all on the internet.”
“I don’t worry so much about me. I worry about my wife,” he admitted. “She takes it hard. When she takes it hard, then I break down.”
Officer Ramon’s take-it-as-it-comes attitude was on full display in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
“It was desperate,” he recalled. “I mean, you’ve never seen so much water before.”
When Officer Ramon tried to report to the downtown traffic enforcement division where he was assigned, he was cut off by floodwaters.
Instead, he headed to the department’s lake patrol unit and spent the next three days helping to rescue over 1,500 residents from flooded neighborhoods.
“That’s probably one of the best times he’s had since his diagnosis,” Officer Ramon’ longtime friend, Sergeant Epi Garza, told WFAA. “His whole mind was occupied on helping people and rescuing lives that day.”
Officer Ramon’s wife, Cindy, explained that his illness left him with weakened portions of skin, which would easily break open and bleed when touched, KENS reported.
But despite the cost to his body, he refused to stay home in the wake of the hurricane, she said.
In January, the Houston Texans recognized Officer Ramon for his heroic deeds and self-sacrifice during the rescue effort.
“This Houston hero helped those in need…all while battling cancer,” the team said in a Facebook post. “To thank him, we partnered up with Papa John’s Houston to offer a very special surprise.”
A short video clip captured the moment that followed, as the shocked officer was given tickets to the Super Bowl.
In early June, Officer Ramon learned that his cancer had spread aggressively and that his time was growing short.
"He just looked at me and said, ‘You know what? The little time that I have left, I'm going to make the best of it,’" his brother, Alex Ramon told KENS.
Per Officer Ramon’s request, his fellow officers, family members, and friends joined him for a final fishing trip in San Antonio on June 7.
"You know, being on the water and looking around, I'm like, ‘The next time I come here, it's without him,’" Cindy said of her thoughts in that moment. "And that's the hardest part, is being without him because he's been my everything."
"I don't know which one is more painful, when you lose somebody instantly and you can't say goodbye, or you have someone you're going to lose and you have so much amount time to say goodbye,” she admitted.
Chief Acevedo commended Officer Ramon’s selfless devotion to the community – a devotion that he said never wavered.
“Norberto refused to give in and worked almost until the very end,” the chief said in a tweet. “He did more living and served with more honor and distinction these past few months, then many do in a lifetime. We will cherish his memory and honor his service in the days and years to come.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Houston Police Department Senior Officer Norberto Ramon, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.