The Grandfather I Barely Knew: Ralph F. Ramsey, 1907-1984 (52 Ancestors #6)

In a perfect world, I would have known him better. After all, I was a teenager when he died. There should have been lots of opportunities to get to know my Grandpa Ramsey. But it isn’t a perfect world.

I won’t get into the reasons why I rarely saw him, even though he lived only about an hour away. The reasons now aren’t all that important.

My Grandpa, Ralph F. Ramsey, on a rare visit to our house, 1971.

My Grandpa, Ralph F. Ramsey, on a rare visit to our house, 1971.

Ralph F. Ramsey was born 7 December 1907 in Perry County, Ohio. (I can always remember his birthday since the Japanese decided to celebrate it in 1941 by bombing Pearl Harbor.) The memories I have of him is that he was a quiet man and I remember him smiling.

He married my grandmother Della Starkey on 22 May 1929. Together, they lived in the sprawling metropolis of Glenford (population: less than 500 at its peak). After her untimely death, he married Wilda Leckrone.

Grandpa was a shovel operator for Central Silica. It’s funny — he’s one of my few non-farmer ancestors and even then he worked in dirt.

Back in the 1950s, Grandpa and my mom drove to Alabama to pick up Mom’s cousin who was getting out of the Navy. (I think I have that detail correct. Note to self: call Mom and find out who it was.) They stopped at a roadside rest along the way and there were people taking a survey, seeing where people were coming from and going to. Keep in mind, Grandpa lived his entire life in Glenford or just outside of it. So how did he answer the question, “Sir, where are you from?”

“I’m from Thornville, Ohio.”

Thornville? Grandpa never lived there a day in his life.  Later, my mom asked him why he answered that way.

“Because I figured he’d never heard of Glenford.”

(Yet, somehow, this highway worker from Alabama might have heard of Thornville? And we wonder why there are weird answers in things like the census.)

It was because of Grandpa that I flew for the first time. Mom and I were on vacation in Florida with my oldest sister and her family. We had all gone together in their RV; Dad couldn’t join us because of work. The night before we were going to head home, we called Dad… and learned that Grandpa had died. There was no way we could drive back in time for the funeral; Mom and I flew home the next morning.

Grandpa Ramsey – a quiet man, sported a crew-cut, and always made a perfect pot of coffee without ever measuring. In a perfect world, I’d have known him better.

9 thoughts on “The Grandfather I Barely Knew: Ralph F. Ramsey, 1907-1984 (52 Ancestors #6)

  1. Denise

    Yes, in a perfect world we would have known him better. He was a good Grandpa. He was quiet. My memory of him is he was like 8 feet tall. I owe my gift opening practice to him. He was even more slow and he only opened the end of the box without taking the paper off. Now that is skill :)

  2. Denise Richmond

    I can relate. If my world had been perfect, I would have known one of my grandmothers as well as my cousins did but it’s a long story. On the other hand, I enjoyed spending a lot of time with my other grandmother who talked little about her life before me and I didn’t know to ask. I suspect many genealogists have “I wish I’d known her/him better” stories.

  3. Angela

    Ann, your story touched my heart. I am in the process of writing my Maternal Grandfather’s story. As a child I was very blessed to spend many hours at my grandparent’s home and many wonderful dinners made by my grandmother. In some ways we were very very close but my Grandpa was a quiet man – a tall, well built, strong and quiet man. He loved us, this I know, for he put up with me climbing on him wanting cuddles – but he didn’t say much. He worked his garden out of which came the most amazing vegetables, pottered around in his little workshop under the house (the house was on a hill and on one side there was a “workshop of a kind”. As I grew up I learned from my Mother that he was in WWI but I never heard him talk about it and when I asked my Mother she said that he had just told her “… she could not imagine the horror of standing in the trenches on the bodies of your comrades with mud, blood and guts all around and the deafening sounds.” Now as I write his story, I have gathered together his Military Record and this morning just found a link to a website which describes the battles at Messines and Passencheale in which he fought. The link also has some exerts from diaries of soldiers – now I understand a little better the horrors he went through… Yes you are right, in a perfect world I would know more but I’m so grateful for all the wonderful memories I do have.

  4. Helen Holshouser

    Hi Amy, I love this story! It is touching and heartfelt. Of course, the conjecture of why you didn’t know him better sends this psychologist off in a million different directions! ( I am jealous , Angela, that you knew your grandfather so well–I knew neither of mine, as they were deceased before my birth.) We had a fair amount of abuse in our family–so of course, my thoughts always wonder at dysfunctional family relationships. Although many of mine were dysfunctional, we still loved each other–some ofus! Anyway, your story was poingant and I’d love to know the “rest of the story” sometime. Once again, thank you for all your herculean efforts on behalf of this wonderful challenge! Helen

    1. Angela

      Thank you Helen. And thanks to Amy for getting me going on my quest to learn more about my Grandpa. My other Grandpa I never knew, he died when my Dad was only 7 years old. How sad that must have been for him and his 3 young sisters. He died of the flu in 1925 after WWII.

    2. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      I don’t want to get into the specifics, but I will say that there wasn’t any abuse involved in why we rarely saw him.

      Thanks for your kind words about the challenge. I’m glad that you’re enjoying it!

  5. Nancy Hurley

    Amy, I appreciate you sharing the story about your grandfather. It reminds all of us again that the world isn’t perfect, in anyone’s world! Sometimes there aren’t specific reasons for a less than perfect relationship, but there are good parts of that relationship that we can focus on. You pointed this out well.


Leave a Reply