Ildefonso Ramirez

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Ildefonso Ramirez (born January 23, 1923 in Matanzas, Cuba; died January 17, 2024 in Birmingham) was a chemist and owner of Kool Korner Sandwiches in Vestavia Hills.

Ramirez was the youngest son of Guillermo Ramirez, a carpenter and blacksmith, and was named for St Ildefonsus of Toledo. He completed a bachelor's degree in chemistry in Matanzas, and then entered the Universidad de la Habana as a medical student. He left after his third year to assist in caring for his father. He found work as a chemist at a rayon factory in Matanzas. He and his wife, Lucia were married in 1951 and welcomed a son, Guillermo ("Bill"), in 1957.

Ramirez began planning to defect from Cuba in the 1960s for the sake of his son. For his political views he lost his job at the rayon factory and was forced to labor at a hemp plantation for five years before gaining permission to emigrate to Spain. There Ildefonso found work selling ice cream while Lucia worked as a seamstress. The family was able to make their way to Miami, Florida in 1972 but he was unable to find work as a chemist. Instead he took a job stocking shelves at a friend's grocery store, and first proposed the idea of making and selling Cuban sandwiches.

When Bill was admitted to the Georgia Institute of Technology to study chemistry, Ildefonso and Lucia relocated to Atlanta. Ildefonso again took a job at a small grocery store, which he later bought. It was destroyed in 1985, and he took over the lease of another store, called Kool Korner, on 14th Street near the Georgia Tech campus. He opened a sandwich counter, near campus in 1985. Over time Ramirezes stopped selling grocery items to focus on the popular sandwich business.

Lucia died in 2004 and the sandwich shop building, where Ildefonso also lived, was sold to a new owner in 2008, and redeveloped for a Moe's Original Bar B Que. Ramirez decided to retire and moved to Vestavia Hills, where Bill was living. In retirement he sat at home watching John Wayne movies and listening to Pavarotti, but soon became restless. Noticing a vacancy at a former Firehouse Subs space at Vestavia Hills City Center, he and his son undertook to re-establish his sandwich shop, having bread shipped overnight from Atlanta's Pan-American Bakery.

Kool Korner relocated again when the rent was set to rise in 2015. After a long search he reopened in March 2016 in the Vestridge Commons shopping center.

Ramirez died in January 2024.


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