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Ricky Martinez Dead at 61

Ranch 616 mainstay was beloved of employees and customers alike
Virginia B. Wood, 3:10pm, Fri. Jul. 19, 2013

When the news broke Wednesday that Ricky Martinez had died as a result of the beating he suffered on Monday at the apartment complex where he lived, most Austinites were saddened to hear about another senseless murder in our city. But for the employees and customers at Ranch 616, the loss of Ricky Martinez is very personal.

Ricky Martinez with former bartender Leslie Phillips
courtesy Leslie Phillips

"Ricky was literally the first person I hired when I opened this place in 1997," recalls Ranch 616 owner Kevin Williamson. "He stuck his head in the window while I was in here tearing out the sheet rock from the previous tenant and asked for a job. He worked on the remodel for a couple of months before we were even open and had been here ever since."

Ricky squeezing limes
courtesy Kevin Williamson

Martinez, 61, was what Williamson describes as "a professional busboy" who took the position very seriously, priding himself on a spotless dining room and a well-stocked bar. His work ethic was legendary. "Ricky might have been 61 but he worked harder than 3 twenty year olds," Williamson said today. One of his jobs behind the bar was to juice several cases of limes every day for the margaritas. Evidently when guests observed him at work, they began clamoring for "Fresh Squeezed Margaritas!"

Ricky with a fresh squeezed margarita fan
courtesy Leslie Phillips

It seems that every employee who worked with Ricky Martinez and every restaurant customer he came in contact with over the past sixteen years has fond memories of the man and a wealth of anecdotes about his warmth, kindness, and generosity. Martinez was also a strong spiritual presence in the restaurant, known for bringing staff members birthday gifts or blessings he'd purchase at the Green & White Grocery and helping to build altars every year for Dia de los Muertos. Williamson described Martinez as "the heart of our restaurant family."

Longtime Austin Chronicle food section contributor and Ranch 616 regular Claudia Alarcón considered Ricky Martinez a friend. "He was the all-around guy who did anything and everything. Greeting people at the door, participating at events where they had booths; he kept the place clean and the cooks in line. If you ever had a margarita there, it was Ricky who hand-squeezed the limes. He was one of the kindest, sweetest, friendliest people you can imagine. We are all horrified and in shock that he's gone," she said.

Ricky Martinez was from Chicago and did not have family members in Austin. However, his family is in town to mourn his passing and celebrate his life with his restaurant family and legion of friends. There will be viewing from 3-8pm today, July 19th, at Austin Peel & Son Funeral Home (6007 E. Anderson Lane) and a Rosary there at 6pm this evening. On Sunday evening, July 21, Ricky's co-workers and friends are invited to a celebration of his life 7:30pm at Ranch 616 (616 Nueces). Look for more information about that event here.

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