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Julio González Rebull, one of the most notable members of Brigade 2506, died Monday at his home in Miami after a brief battle with cancer.
He was 82.
Remembered as one of the foremost fighters against the Castro regime, González Rebull directed the drops of parachute troops during the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.
“Julito was one of the members we most respected. He brought prestige to the Brigade wherever he went. He was very engaged in all the Brigade activities and was in charge of the April 17 anniversary speeches,” said Herald Humberto López Saldaña, one of the directors of the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association Brigade 2506.
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April 17, 1961, is when about 1,200 Cuban exiles, trained and armed by the U.S. government, came ashore at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in the hopes of overthrowing Fidel Castro. They were met by Castro’s military forces, resulting in three days of fighting and Cuban prison terms for the exile survivors.
González Rebull also participated in the campaign during the 1960s to drop weapons to guerrillas who were fighting against the Castro government in the Escambray Mountains in central Cuba.
“The Brigade 2506 is losing a friend as well as an essential fighter in the struggle to maintain aloft the symbol and legacy that this represents,” López Saldaña told el Nuevo Herald.
He added that González Rebull was very active in the management of the Brigade but never served as its director because he preferred to help behind the scenes.
His son Julio, known as Julitin, praised his father’s commitment.
“My father used to say that he came to the United States looking for democracy, and that he would not rest until his homeland was free,” Julio said. “That’s the sad part, that he and others like him never saw the free Cuba they fought for.”
He said his father was diagnosed with brain cancer about 10 weeks ago, when he started having difficulties walking.
Born in Havana in 1936, González Rebull worked as a journalist at his father’s newspaper, El Crisol, which opposed the Castro regime from its start.
He arrived in the United States in May 1960 and soon joined other Cuban exiles training in clandestine camps in Central America to fight the Castro regime. He was 23.
His first U.S. job was as a salesman for the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. He rose through the ranks until he was offered a promotion to a post in Ohio, but rejected it.
“He was terrified of the cold,” said his son, adding that his father later started a business selling tires.
But his real career was in publicity, public relations and communications. He founded the JGR & Associates PR firm, sold it in 1997 but continued working as a communications adviser until his later years.
“My father was known for his unique ability to establish relations with all kinds of people,” said his son. “It was not unusual to hear many people say, ‘I am a friend of Julito.”’
Several leading members of Miami’s Cuban-American community expressed their condolences on social networks.
Former U.S. Congressman Lincoln Díaz-Balart wrote on his Twitter account, “Rest in peace, my friend Julio González Rebull. A great man, an extraordinary patriot.”
Miami-Dade Commissioner Rebeca Sosa also tweeted, “We will always remember him for his dedication to the cause of freedom and democracy, as a veteran of the Bay of Pigs invasion and as a community activist.”
Besides his son Julio, González Rebull is survived by his wife of 33 years, Annie, and her children, which he considered to be his own, as well as eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
His vigil will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Memorial Plan Westchester, 9800 SW 24 St. A Mass in his memory will follow Wednesday at noon at St. Peter & Saint Paul Church, 900 SW 26th Road. Burial will be at Miami Memorial Park, 6200 SW 77 Ave.
Donations in his memory may be sent to the League Against Cancer.
Follow Sarah Moreno on Twitter: @SarahMorenoENH.