Family, friends celebrate Joe Ramsey’s life
By St. Clair Murraine
Richard Ramsey had no clue he was preparing himself to deal with the death of his brother, Joe, about three weeks ago when he gave a speech about how to cope with losing a loved one.
“I was telling people about loss and how you’re going to go on,” said Ramsey. “One week later, I was dealing with the same thing. God was preparing me to deal with this.”
Ramsey and some of the people whose lives his brother touched emotionally eulogized Joe Ramsey this past Friday. About 300 people were in the Lawson Center where they described Ramsey as a man who had a stern style of mentoring, coaching and as being someone who did everything with a style that clearly was his own.
Two near-life-sized photos of Ramsey – one at of each end of his coffin – stood in front of the stage as the emotional celebration of his life took place.
Ramsey, a former Lake Wales High School standout as a sprinter who later ran at FAMU, died on June 30. He also was a teacher and administrator at FAMU, where he was chairman of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
He was 65.
His brother’s voice cracked occasionally when he recalled some of the cherished moments they shared while growing up in Lake Wales. He also reminisced about how nothing took Ramsey off his routine of a daily workout and going to bed by 10 p.m.
A few of Ramsey’s friends had dropped in one night and were unaware of his bedtime curfew, his brother said. Just before going to bed, Ramsey asked his visitors to follow him to the sidewalk near his house.
Ramsey then, retreated with a fashion that clearly stated he wasn’t skipping a beat in his routine.
“You all can stay out here as long as you want,” Richard recalled his brother saying, “but I’m going to bed.
“That’s how Joe was. You either take it like he was or leave it.”
There weren’t many that didn’t like Ramsey’s way of getting a message across. He had a matter-of-fact approach to almost everything and didn’t hesitate to shun anything he deemed as being “foolishness,” his brother said.
Ramsey started to establish his legacy at FAMU when he joined the track team in the late 1950’s. He and former Olympian Rey Robinson forged a relationship that lasted 47 years.
Robinson credited Ramsey for helping him attain Olympic status, as well as becoming head coach of the Rattlers. Ramsey’s impact didn’t stop there.
Recalling one of the Rattlers’ many trips to the NCAA postseason meet under him, Robinson remembered how Ramsey saved his relay team from forfeiting its appearance.
When a member of the 4×400 relay team decided he didn’t want to run, a conversation with Ramsey changed that.
“He took the kid behind the stands for about five minutes,” Robinson said. “That kid came back and said, ‘coach I apologize. I’m going to run that four by four.’
“I never asked Joe what he said, but that guy was ready to run.”
Influencing young people to make the right choices was common for Ramsey. One of them was Marvin Green, an associate athletic director at FAMU. He could hardly hold back tears while explaining how he turned down opportunities in Chicago to stay at FAMU as Ramsey suggested.
Ramsey’s death stunned many, including Green.
“Just last night, I could hear Dr. Ramsey talking again,” Green said. “You know what; I said everything is going to be alright.”
FAMU president Elmira Mangum started the second half of the hour-long ceremony, reading a resolution from the university that lauded Ramsey’s legacy.
“The administration, faculty, students and staff at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University express deep sympathy for the great loss of Dr. Joseph T. Ramsey,” the resolution read in part. “The good works of his life will continue to live on in the heart of those he touched.”