The Rovirosa name is indelibly linked with PortMiami, Port Everglades and South Florida’s vital seaport industries. But it could easily be linked to another important attribute: A love for family.
That focus on family has been cultivated as carefully as the family’s port business that has endured since its origins in pre-Castro Cuba in the 1930s. So says Jorge Rovirosa, president of Florida Stevedoring and its parent company, Farovi Shipping Corp., and PortMiami Director Juan Kuryla.
Richard “Ricky” Rovirosa, 60, and his wife Maria Teresa “Maituca” Rovirosa, 58, were among the 98 victims recovered from the wreckage of the Champlain Towers South condo that collapsed on June 24.
Miami-Dade police recovered and identified Maria Teresa’s body on July 7; Richard’s on July 10. The couple lived on the third floor of the condo tower and have two grown daughters, Alejandra and Adriana, both graduates of Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart.
‘Proud of his daughters’
“Twin flames that began and ended their lives together,” the family wrote in a Legacy obituary.
That observation should not be forgotten, Jorge Rovirosa, Ricky’s uncle, and Kuryla each stressed in a joint interview.
“If you pick the six families that made this port what it is today, from the private sector, the Rovirosa family is definitely one of those,” Kuryla said. “But I would love the readers to know the type of man that Ricky was. Not only was he a proto businessman, he was a gentle soul. He was this incredibly sensitive guy. A nice, nice, nice person.”
“He was very proud of his daughters,” Jorge Rovirosa said of his nephew, who joined the family business — Florida Stevedoring and Farovi — and grew into an executive vice president role with the companies at the PortMiami and Port Everglades terminals.
“We would sit in the office, and I’d question him on how Alejandra was doing, and he would go on and on and tell me about her success in college and then in the business world. And then, when Adriana was in school, he would travel to Washington where she was going to college and fill me in, and his eyes would sparkle,” Jorge Rovirosa said.
Ricky and Maituca — as her friends called her — raised their daughters in South Miami. The Surfside condo, purchased in 2005, was initially an oceanfront getaway and also a convenience as it was centrally located between Ricky’s base of operations at PortMiami and Port Everglades.
“They were valued members of our Carrollton community, and we treasure having Adriana and Alejandra as our alumnae,” said Isabel Singletary, director of stewardship and special communications for Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Coconut Grove.
Born to Francisco and Myriam Rovirosa (now Roig) in Houston on Jan. 23, 1961, Ricky was raised in Venezuela, El Salvador, Puerto Rico and, finally, Miami, where he attended St. Brendan High School. After graduating from Loyola University in New Orleans with a degree in finance and economics in 1983, Ricky joined the family business.
According to the company’s website, Florida Stevedoring was incorporated in 1972 and has stevedoring licenses with the ports in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
The roots, however, date to 1937, when family patriarch Frank A. Rovirosa created the Havana, Cuba-headquartered shipping and stevedoring company that bore his name.
“It became the largest stevedoring company in the entire island,” Jorge Rovirosa said. “Because sugar was king back then, and as a ship owner, they had tankers that would bring the molasses from small Cuban ports to Havana to bigger ships. And these ships would come into ports in Philadelphia and Baltimore and that molasses was used by Pepsi Cola and Coca-Cola as sweeteners, so he was established as an international shipping business.”
The senior Rovirosa used those U.S. ties to open a small office in Miami in 1960 after the Castro regime confiscated his business in Cuba.
By 1970, various members of the family took on roles with the company at PortMiami, including Jorge and his older, late brother Frank.
“Dad said, ‘Hey, time to come home, let’s grow this business.’ So Frank came over, and I was just out of school so I joined as well and that is how we [Florida Stevedoring] started,” Jorge said.
Ricky and his brother Frank, nicknamed Frankie, heeded the call after college.
“Of course, they wanted cushy jobs — coat and tie jobs — and the old man said, ‘No, no, no. You don’t learn the business here. You’ve got to get out to the pier.’ So he sent them both out to the pier to learn the business from the very bottom,” Jorge said.
“I remember when Ricky started he was very enthusiastic, and I would always tell him, ‘Attention to detail,’ and he took that to heart,” Jorge said.
Lori Baer, executive director of the Port Everglades Association, said she was privileged to grow up in the industry knowing the Rovirosas.
“I worked at Port of Miami in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The Rovirosa family is to be credited as much as anyone for the success of putting South Florida on the shipping map. . . . They carried forward this industry leadership and cooperation through the decades.
“Many people believe port operations is in your blood,” Baer continued. “Absolutely true in the case of the Rovirosa family. A quality family and Richard more than made his mark on the accomplishments of the port industry.”
Added Ellen Kennedy, Port Everglades’ acting director of business development: “Ricky could be a tough negotiator and competitive in business, but he always greeted me with a huge smile followed by a bear hug. I got to hear some terrific stories about his family as well, especially about his daughters. He was a proud father.”
Born to Lionel and Margarita Montells in Madrid, Spain, also on Jan. 23 — like her husband but two years later in 1963 — Maria “Maituca” Teresa was raised in Madrid until she moved to New Jersey as a teenager. Her family soon settled in Miami where she completed her senior year at Coral Gables High School and earned her associate’s degree from Miami-Dade Community College.
Maria Teresa worked at Verifone for more than 15 years before dedicating herself to her family.
Richard and Maria Teresa met in 1985 and were engaged within six months, the family said. They married on Dec. 13, 1986, loved good wine, laughter and world travel.
“The loss of my brother and Maituca has left a huge void in our family. Ricky and I were the youngest, both born in Houston. He was like my twin, my protector, confidante. We spoke almost every day and he was the best brother and friend you could ever have,” Natalie Martinez said.
“Maituca was like my sister — the most selfless individual I have ever known. She was always there not only for us but for her family and friends. Although it will take some time to recover from this tragic, unnecessary loss, we will always treasure the many great memories we shared during family gatherings, parties, weddings, births and trips. In his own words, ‘pa’lante,’” Martinez said.
“They were an exemplary couple and so very caring. Their daughters were truly blessed with such dedicated and loving parents,” added Richard’s sister Ana Maria Alexander.
“Ricky was a leader in this industry, a leader in this community, but more importantly, I judge men and women not by how much they do in their business world but by the way they are with their families,” PortMiami Director Kuryla said. “And for Ricky, his wife and his daughters were the center of the world, the center of the universe. That is the type of individual we admire.”
In addition to Uncle Jorge Rovirosa, Richard and Maria’s survivors include their daughters, Alejandra Rovirosa and Adriana Rovirosa; Richard’s mother, Myriam Roig; his siblings Ana Maria Alexander, Miriam Montalvo, Frank Rovirosa and Natalie Martinez.
Also, Maria’s mother, Margarita Montells; her siblings Jessica Montells, Lionel Montells, Jose Ignacio Montells and nieces, nephews.