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A unique friendship brings 2 people together that are generations apart in age

Posted at 10:09 AM, Jan 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-03 10:09:45-05

OKEMOS, Mich. — There is a saying that says friends are hard to find, difficult to leave and impossible to forget. This week's Good Neighbor is about a 29-year-old friendship and how special friendships can be.

Lansing resident Traci Ruiz is helping look after 103-year-old Eva Salinas.

“I call her muñeca chula. It’s a term of endearment in Spanish. muñeca is a doll in Spanish, and chula is even more adoring. What they call her in the church is Reina, which is queen,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz has known Salinas for almost three decades.

The two aren’t related, but Ruiz says it doesn’t matter because she thinks of Eva as her grandma.

“You are amazing, muñeca! And you look so pretty today,” she said.

Salinas responds, “Oh my goodness’ sake, Traci.”

Ruiz, a former Lansing Police Department officer, says she first met Salinas at the city’s Christo Rey Fiesta, an annual Latino festival that brings the community together.

“A big part of my job was going out into the community and checking on senior citizens. I developed a closer relationship with Mrs. Salinas because she had a fall when she was 98," Ruiz said. "Her 80-year-old brother was trying to manage her care, which was challenging. That’s when he asked me to take over her care, so that was a big deal. We had a friendship, and then it turned into more like a family member where we kept her at our house at times. She spent a lot of her holidays with us since 2013 and beyond. So, she's family now. Right muñeca?”

“Si, yes, ma’am," Salinas said.

Salinas is the eldest of 11 siblings. Her parents were migrant workers in Mexico before moving to the United States.

Ruiz says Mrs. Salinas’ goal since she was very young was to get her U.S. citizenship. She accomplished that feat in her 50s and is very proud of it.

“One of the things that you seem to be most proud of is voting," Ruiz said. "She always wants to vote because it's a privilege, not a right."

Salinas’ 97-year-old sister Teddy lives in California. Still, Ruiz ensures the two get to see each other weekly through FaceTime.

Ruiz also makes sure she introduces other people to Salinas, so they can visit her. Elizabeth Montemayor takes her 8-year-old son Robbie when she visits.

“She’s nice. She doesn’t like chocolate," Robbie says.

“Can you believe that? She doesn’t like chocolate," adds Elizabeth. “She spends a lot of time advocating for her. Traci makes sure she has what she needs. She has had birthday celebrations the last few years for Mrs. Salinas, which are just so special. The community embraces Mrs. Salinas, and I know that it means the world to Mrs. Salinas. She is especially grateful to have Traci in her life.

Vita Pizana agrees. Pizana also visits Salinas.

“Traci Ruiz is a Good Neighbor because she's so helpful to Eva," Pizana said. "But Traci is not only good to Mrs. Salinas, but to just anyone in the community that would ever need help."

We agree and want to thank Traci Ruiz, who goes above and beyond to help her friend Mrs. Salinas.

Traci, you are this week’s Good Neighbor.

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Bob Hoffman

Bob Hoffman

9:44 PM, Nov 26, 2018

Good Neighbors Host

Bob Hoffman

Good Neighbors
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