Neris Roberto Ventura, a loving and hard-working family man who immigrated to the United States from Honduras in the 1980s, passed away peacefully and surrounded by loved ones, on November 29, 2021.
He is survived by his wife, Juanita Ventura, and his children Nery, Carolina, Vanessa, Leslie, Mario, Genesis and Jonathan.
Neris, better known as Nery to his family and friends, was diagnosed with stomach cancer in May of 2021. During his battle with cancer, Nery continued to be a beacon of strength and light in his family—watering the lawn every morning, going to church with his wife, Juana, working on his car with his son, Mario, taking his daughter, Genesis, and his young son, Jonathan, to dentist and doctor’s appointments and making sure his dog, Chango, got his regular trim at the groomer’s.
A man of very strong faith, Nery always sought strength in the power of Jesus Christ and God. Never seen without a smile on his face, Nery’s loving, compassionate demeanor was felt by everyone he interacted with. From nurses at the hospital where he received chemotherapy to the corner store employees who became his lifelong friends, Nery’s warmth and gratitude was experienced by all.
For the past 28 years, Mr. Ventura worked as a custodian in Downtown Chicago, making his daily commute from Indiana. Every day before his shift, Nery would take a trip to the grocery store, buy food for his family, take his children to school and sometimes pay a visit to his brothers or friends, all before his shift started. He was also a handyman who was always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone who needed it. At work, he wasn’t just a co-worker, but a kind and caring face that made many life-long friends.
Nery immigrated to the United States in the ‘80s from Honduras with his brothers and first arrived in Dallas, Texas before moving to Chicago, Illinois and later, East Chicago, Indiana. After gaining citizenship as an American in the ‘90s, Nery was always proud of his home country, Honduras, as well as his new one, the United States. Because the road to becoming a Honduran-American wasn’t easy, it was something that Nery never took for granted.
Mr. Ventura was also proud to live in Chicago and quickly learned the ins and outs of the city, making him a wonderful tour guide to his friends and family, often taking them to Navy Pier and to the shops Downtown. Always up for a good time, Nery was an avid soccer fan, always rooting for Honduras, as well as football (The Bears, of course), hockey and baseball. In photos, he can regularly be seen smiling and sporting a Blackhawks sweater or a Cubs t-shirt, giving a big thumbs up to the camera.
Nery’s love for his fellow humans was palpable, as was his love for his wife of 20 years, Juanita. Married first in Honduras and again last year in 2020, Nery’s lifelong commitment to his wife and children was unwavering. In July of 2019, Nery and Juanita welcomed their third child together, Jonathan, whose life will forever continue to be a symbol of Nery’s love, pride and joy.
Martin Luther King once said that “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
As we gather to celebrate and mourn the life of my father, Nery Roberto Ventura, I want to reflect upon this quote and the measure of my father’s character, a selfless man that worked his entire life to create opportunities for his family and friends, to ensure that those around him felt comfortable and loved.
My father emigrated to the United States in his twenties without knowing the language, without knowing a single soul. What happened after has been passed down through stories—memories of desolate nights, fortunate encounters and new arrivals. My dad landed in Texas, where he eventually met my mother.
I imagine that they taught each other about their two entirely different worlds and found respite in each other’s free-spirited nature—something that runs through my veins to this very day.
I wasn’t raised with my father, but his love and care have always been with me. Though I grew up in Las Vegas, my dad still made it out to my high school graduation. And close to a decade later, we would celebrate his 58th birthday together, traveling from Las Vegas to California. I remember the conversation like it was yesterday—he called me up, asked me how far the Pacific Ocean was from Las Vegas and that he had never seen it before. Right then and there we planned our road trip. We drove to Los Angeles in my little car, then up along the coast of the ocean, all the while singing to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It’s something I will never forget.
So much of my childhood was out of my control. Being raised away from my father meant not learning the language or experiencing his beautiful culture. But despite our distance, my dad always accepted me. He loved me, even though I looked different and talked differently. And we had a bond—this mutual understanding and respect that seemed to transcend time or geography.
I remember when I was on the news one time, and I sent my dad the recording. He called me back, crying, saying his daughter was famous.
I wasn’t famous, but in his eyes, I was, and in that moment I felt like I had conquered the world.
When I was sad, I knew that I could call my dad and his calming voice would console me and comfort me. He reassured me that his door was always open.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t something I took my dad up on until it was too late. When I found out my dad was sick, there was no question that I had to move. I needed to be with him.
For a month I got to live with my dad—and even though he was sick, he took me apartment hunting in the city. In the beginning of his chemo treatments, when he was feeling better, we would go out to eat and talk about life and just revel in each other’s presence. It was like it always should have been.
My dad’s life was cut way too short. I always envisioned living here in Chicago and creating new memories with my dad as an adult in my 30s. That wish wasn’t granted, but as I drive through the city every day and see all of his favorite spots, I know he is still with me.
Reality still hasn’t completely set in. I feel like any day now, I’ll get a call from my dad, asking why I haven’t picked up and that he misses me. I miss everything about him. I miss his smile. I miss his goofiness. I miss him calling me pumpkinhead and I miss getting to hold his hand.
But if the measure of a man is determined by how one handles challenges thrown their way, my dad was one of the strongest men to have walked this earth. It is for his sacrifices that I am here—that my siblings are here. And I know he will continue to look down on us, to keep us safe, just as he always has. When I see his wife, Juanita, I see my dad’s love. When I see my sister Genesis and my brothers Mario and Jonathan, I see my dad’s warmth and humility. And when I look at my face, I too, see my dad, smiling back at me—he encourages me to be kind, thankful, and to embrace life with the sparkling, wide-eyed curiosity that he always did.
I never thought any of us would be in this position today, but I am eternally grateful for my father and everything he has done for me and our family. While I wish more than anything that he was still here, I know that he rests in peace—that our family will keep his memory alive every day, and that he is with us, even when we cannot see him.
Thank you, dad, for always loving me and accepting me.
I love you so much.
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