Each day for 16 years, he was one of the first faces most Seward students and staff saw as they entered the building. Rafael Muriel was security at S.S. Seward Institute. His greeting was usually a broad smile and wave, often with kind words for those who passed through the doors.
That positive, encouraging and warm presence is now gone. On March 4, Mr. Muriel passed away, leaving his friends and colleagues, not to mention the students, with a tremendous loss.
“He made you smile every day,” said Pam Mythen, who works at Seward. “We were friends inside and outside of the building. Every day he laughed and made others smile.”
Muriel was loved by students, faculty, parents and the community. His tough love, sage advice and guidance impacted the lives of thousands of students over the years.
“Whether it was a shoulder to cry on, a smile to brighten the day, or his famous prom dances, Rafael was a Spartan and loved the students at Seward,” said Principal Michael Rheume.
Muriel came to Seward after a career as a corrections officer in New York City. With him came his love for the New York Yankees – and he wasn’t shy about it, wearing his Yankees jerseys and always up for a baseball discussion, especially with Mets fans.
Muriel loved to dance – and he was good at it! He often showed his talent at the prom and occasionally students would coax him onto the dance floor at school dances. He loved Spanish music and Invicta watches – he had a large collection of them including one in Seward blue and orange colors - and his favorite place to be was sitting by a lake or the ocean.
“He loved his family and friends,” said Chery Zis, Seward school secretary. “There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for them. If someone needed his help, he was there right away.”
For many students at Seward, his welcoming spirit and support became the extra incentive to do well in school. His legacy will remain for many years.
“His job was simply to keep us safe, but he always went above and beyond,” said one student. “He was a giant teddy bear who kept us company when we needed it, was there to hear our teenage woes and made us laugh until it hurt, and always made sure to make us feel loved.”
“Ralphie was a stand-up guy, a constant ray of sunshine in the hallways of Seward,” said a former Seward student.
The Seward community lost a beloved friend, someone who gave all of himself to ensure others are safe, special, supported and loved. Now the Seward community will honor Rafael Muriel with an annual scholarship. If you would like to contribute to the Rafael Muriel Memorial Kindness Scholarship, click here for the gofundme page with additional information.
“He was a great friend to many,” said the student, “and through that, showed us all how to be better friends to one another.”
“Words seem too small to express the sadness I feel about the loss of Ralph. He was larger than life in heart and soul. He was a protector, a friend but more importantly a family member. He was a huge part of Seward and my personal life and his loss has left a void that is impossible to fill. I will miss his smile and contagious laugh. His gentle soul will forever remain in my heart.”
Cheryl Zis, School Secretary