Manuel Ruiz Mingorance, who taught foreign language at North Shore High School for more than 20 years, died on Nov. 16 at his home in Glen Head. He was 90.
Mingorance was born in Granada, Spain, on Feb. 26, 1928. His deep love of learning and languages grew from a belief that there was more to life than the wars that dominated his childhood — a belief that grew out of his habit of escaping into the pages of books. The Spanish Civil War began in 1936, when he was 8, and World War II soon followed.
“He grew up in a time where bombs were being dropped,” said his son, Eric Mingorance, of Rockville Centre. “There were executions, starvation, people dying of disease. He read because he wanted to believe there was something more.”
Through his extensive reading, Mingorance developed an interest in other cultures, and eventually he learned a handful of languages as a way to connect with them. “He always had an intellectual curiosity,” said his wife, Ann Mingorance, of Glen Head. They were married for 52 years.
They met in a Russian studies class at Columbia University in the mid-1960s, shortly after Mingorance immigrated to the U.S. He had earned several post-graduate degrees elsewhere, studying classical Greek in Spain, comparative religion in Ireland, and philosophy at a Catholic university in Tokyo. “He was always eager to learn more about more,” Ann said.
“He built in the bookshelves at our childhood home in Glen Head,” Eric added. “The walls were just covered with books.”
Mingorance earned a doctorate from New York University and started his teaching career at Sands Point Academy in Port Washington. In the mid-1970s, he took his talents to North Shore High School, where he taught Spanish and Japanese. A former colleague, Bernard Giarruputo, of Glen Head, said that Mingorance had a way with words as well as students, and possessed remarkable know-ledge, patience and a keen sense of humor.
“He knew exactly how to do it to bring it home to them,” said Giarruputo, who also taught Spanish at North Shore High. “He always had a friendly smile on his face and a funny joke to tell that would ease any kind of pressure that was existing . . . that day.”
Mingorance’s daughter, Cristina Price, of Sea Cliff, was a student in her father’s classes for several years. “He was always enjoyable and very laid-back, and even with my friends that weren’t great students, he would joke around with them,” she recalled. “He met everyone on their level.”
He often journeyed to the places he read about. He trekked the Grand Canyon and the ice fields of the Canadian Rockies, and took part in the Camino de Santiago — a network of pilgrimages that lead to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. He was enthralled by nature and national parks, and visited a number of cultural sites in his lifetime: the golden monasteries of Tibet, the ruins of Machu Picchu, the pueblos of the native Hopis in Arizona, and the Masai Mara national game reserve in Kenya.
Giarruputo said that his colleague’s travel bug had a profound impact on his students. “They saw his traveling and his ability to communicate with these countries, and it motivated them to want to do it, too,” he said.
Considered a quiet and observant man, Mingorance was also known for his subtle yet insightful sense of humor. “At the end of any event, he would make a comment that summed up the entire conversation in a witty way,” Cristina said. “His analysis was always so funny and spot-on.”
“And he always said it with a straight face,” Ann added.
Her husband, whom she described as selfless and generous, taught himself to cook and bake shortly after they married. “We never had any store-bought bread our whole lives, and he always shared it with people,” Eric said. “He made tons of meals, elaborate breakfasts, and when we had people over, he could talk to everybody. He was eager to fit in and help out. He was dedicated to the family.”
Besides his wife and children, Mingnorance is survived by his brother, Emilio, of Zaragoza, Spain, and three grandchildren, Elena, Jordan and Julia. He was pre-deceased by his sister, Sor Encarnacion, of Madrid. A memorial service is scheduled for Dec. 22, at 11 a.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, at 1579 Northern Blvd. in Roslyn.