Ricardo "Richard" Rojelio Muñiz

December 23, 1937 - April 22, 2024

Ricardo “Richard” Rojelio Muñiz, 86, passed away on Monday, April 22, 2024 at his home in Charlottesville with his loving daughters, and his cat, by his side.

Richard was born on December 23, 1937 in San Antonio, Texas to the late Jose Trinidad Muñiz and Mercedes Borrego Ugarte who both emigrated from Mexico in their teens. He spent his childhood exploring the streets of San Antonio and held that city close to his heart. He spoke only Spanish with his family and friends until he entered the 1st grade when he and his classmates were surprised to discover that their teacher spoke only English. He quickly became bilingual.

Richard was revered for his curiosity, intelligence, and desire to continually educate himself about the world around him. He graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio, Texas in 1956 where he was a member of the ROTC Drill Team. After graduation, he spent the summer working at El Popo’s (now Adelita’s), his uncle’s tortilla factory, before being hired as a geodetic “human” computer and draftsman for Jack Amman Photogrammetric Engineers where his career began in cartography and mapping. He continued to work there while earning an Associate’s degree in Mathematics from San Antonio College, in 1961, and attending St. Mary’s University from 1961-1963. He served as an Electronics Technician for the U.S. Navy Reserves (8th Naval District, Rank: ETN2), from 1955–1963.

In 1964, he was recruited to work as a Geodesist for the U.S. Army Map Service in Washington, D.C. As a handsome young bachelor living in a boarding house for young professionals in DuPont Circle, Richard loved discovering all of the delights that the nation’s capital had to offer and soon developed friendships that have lasted a lifetime. He and his buddies enjoyed sailing, listening to jazz bands, attending lectures, and taking their dates to dance clubs. Throughout his life, he continued enjoying those pleasures as well as photography, astronomy, genealogy, and studying how the human brain works.

On blind date in 1965, he met Nancy Penington Willis, a young widow with two toddlers, and before the year was out, he proposed to her beneath the Cherry Blossoms near the Jefferson Memorial. They were married on September, 17, 1966. Together, they raised her two children, Ricky and Robin, and their own daughter, April, in West Springfield, a suburb in Northern Virginia. He exposed his kids to his Latin American culture, as well as many other cultures, by taking them to festivals throughout the DC and Baltimore area, where they heard new music, saw beautiful costumes, learned folk dances, and tasted the flavors of the world.

After they were married, Richard transferred from the Army Map Service to the U.S. Army Engineer Topographic Laboratories (USAETL) at Fort Belvoir, where he worked as a Physical Scientist. One project he enjoyed working on early in this tenure was a technology transfer project that would use the Department of Defense’s NAVSTAR Global Positioning System (GPS) for non-military survey and civil works projects. He and his colleagues played a key role in the continuing evolution of this precise mapping technology that we all use today. He also took on additional responsibilities as an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) counselor, addressing employee grievances related to discrimination, and took the lead on an initiative to encourage the promotion of women in the field of science. While working there, he attended The George Washington University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Physics in 1972. He was inducted into Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society.

In the early 1980s, he was transferred to the U.S. Army Office of Chief Engineers at the Pentagon to work for the Corps of Engineers. He coordinated research and development efforts with the Defense Mapping Agency, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, the U.S. Army Forces Command, and the Department of Defense. In the mid-80s, he returned to USA-ETL at Fort Belvoir to work for their newly formed Space Programs Laboratory. While there, he achieved a lifelong dream of watching one of his projects launched on a Space Shuttle from Houston’s mission control. Aside from another temporary position at the Pentagon, he stayed in this role until his retirement in 1997.

Richard and Nancy were married for 55 years and, until her death in 2022, were rarely seen apart. They loved doing things with friends and entertaining guests from out of town. From their honeymoon in Miami through their entire life together, love of travel remained. Whether it was the wedding of a loved one on the other side of the country or a dream cruise to Pompeii, the world was their oyster and they loved exploring it together and with friends. They also volunteered together and apart. Richard worked alongside kindred spirits in the research labs at the Smithsonian Institute and enjoyed attending shows at the musical and theatrical venues where they volunteered.

After his wife’s passing, Richard moved to Charlottesville, Virginia to be closer to his daughter. In truth, he never recovered from the loss of his bride.

In addition to his parents, Richard was preceded in death by his wife, Nancy Muñiz, his son, Richard Lynn Willis, Jr., his sister, Alma Aguillon, and his brother, Joe Muñiz.

Richard is survived by his loving daughters, Robin DeMonti and April Muñiz, his grandchildren/great-grandchildren, JR DeMonti, Angie Hegner, Elliott Freeman, Joey DeMonti, Emily Mothershead, Kaitee Jane Abosbitan, Teddie Neadow, Trevor DeMonti, Madison DeMonti, Tomlin DeMonti, Kainoa Jenkins, Savannah DeMonti, Jameson Neadow, Carson Abosbitan, Colson Neadow, Fern Mothershead, Joey DeMonti, Jr., Alexis Neadow, Eliza DeMonti, and baby-boy Mothershead, who is still cookin’. He also leaves behind many beloved nieces and nephews and friends from his well-lived life.

The family is organizing several memorial celebrations in his honor later this year in Charlottesville, Northern Virginia and San Antonio, where his friends and family can gather to remember him. Please contact his daughter, April, at april1213@gmail.com, if you’d like to attend, as details are still in the works.

In lieu of flowers or a donation, please take some time to enjoy the wonders of the world, as he did. Think of him when you take a child to a museum, wander through a nature preserve, travel to a faraway land, get out on the water, or look up at the night sky.