Editor’s note: This story is part of a series about Oklahomans who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read the stories of other Oklahomans here. Have you lost a loved one to COVID-19? Help us tell their story.
After serving for decades for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, Emily Ann Bushyhead Ramirez, 82, was highly sought after by tribes in the eastern United States.
And though she worked for a few tribes for a brief period after her retirement from the BIA, she soon returned home to El Reno to enjoy life with her family, daughter Anita Greenwalt said.
“Mom was a doer,” Greenwalt said. “….I don’t think that there wasn’t anything my mom couldn’t do. It doesn’t matter what was put out in front of her, she got it done.”
The only girl in her family of five children, Emily was born in Kingfisher and graduated from El Reno High School in 1956. She was a citizen of the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes.
She married Joe “Nick” Ramirez in 1961 and the couple had five children together.
Emily attended nursing school at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Oklahoma City, and after working for a brief period as a nurse assistant at ParkView Hospital in El Reno, Emily left the medical field in 1964 to work in plant management for the BIA at Concho Indian School. In 1986, she became a realty specialist for the U.S. Department of Interior, working in Colorado, New Mexico and Kansas. Later, she worked for the BIA’s Indian Gaming Management Office in Washington D.C., from which she retired after 31 years of civil service employment.
After working for a brief period for an American Indian tribe in the eastern part of the country, Emily began volunteering as a secretary at her church, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in El Reno.
In September, after her husband Joe was hospitalized with COVID-19, she too came down with the illness and was transported to Norman Regional Medical Center.
She died from COVID on Sept. 15, 2020. Joe, her husband of 59 years, died six days later. Both were buried at El Reno cemetery.
One of the last communications from Emily to her children was a photograph of herself sent from her phone at the hospital. The family tried to get a video conferencing session set up between her and Joe before she died. But it was too late.
Emily’s last text to her daughter was “Tell daddy I miss him and love him,” Greenwalt said.
“Whenever she sent that picture and message to us kids, I think maybe she knew she was going. She reached out to us,” Greenwalt said. “That was so heartbreaking.”