Ransom celebrates 90 years of a ‘remarkable life’
By Tony Cagala
Robert Ransom and his family moved to Ramona 87 years ago. He was just 3 years old at the time, and the community of Ramona was a lot different.
On Sunday, April 17, Bob, as he is known around the community, celebrated his 90th birthday.
“What is 90?” he asked. “When I was a kid, nobody ever makes it to 90,” he said. “I always thought I’d never even make Social Security!”
When the family went to celebrate, no one could find a balloon with 90 on it, said his wife, Virginia Elliot Hanigan. So what they did was get two balloons, one with a 50 on it and one with a 40 on it, “so 40 and 50 make 90,” she said.
Most of Ransom’s 90 years have been spent in Ramona, living what he calls a “remarkable life,” though he spends a lot of time now in Morro Bay. He’s witnessed the growth of the community, run a business for many years, been married and had four daughters. He is the only one of six Ransom family members still alive.
When the Ransom family arrived in Ramona from Atkinson, Ill, his mother stepped out of the car to find a 6-foot rattlesnake coiled up nearby.
“The next thing she said was ‘let’s go back to Illinois,’” said Ransom.
Growing up in Ramona in the 1930s was quite different from today.
“When I think back on my early days before all of this fancy electronic stuff and everything, I just can’t believe how much fun I had,” he said.
“We made our own entertainment, because there wasn’t any,” Virginia said.
He remembers building rafts out of lumber he and his friends would drag across open fields, and they would raft down Etcheverry Creek.
There was a blacksmith shop next to where he grew up, the family business was right up the street from where they lived, and when he attended high school, he graduated with a class of at least 90.
Ransom was an athlete in high school, winning the Roques trophy. That was always the big trophy, donated by George Roques, who owned the Kenilworth Inn, and Robert received it, Virginia said. He was awarded the trophy for his sportsmanship in basketball, his citizenship—everything but academics, she joked.
In 1946, his aunt had set him up on a blind date with a girl named Ona, a college student from the University of La Verne. They met at a basketball dance and were married the following June, 1947.
They had four daughters, OnaRae, Ann, Ruth and Mary. Three still live in Ramona. The two eldest daughters, OnaRae and Ann, became teachers; Ann lives in Yuma, Ariz. Ruth is a beautician, and Mary worked as a dental technician before becoming a teacher’s aide.
“Poor Dad didn’t have a chance with five women in the house,” said his daughter Ruth Keyser. “He was actually pretty good to all of us, and he looked out for us.”
Ona was a school teacher in Ramona for 38 years. She died in 1999.
Virginia and Bob were married in 2001, after reuniting at an all-class reunion. “We’ve had almost 10 wonderful years,” she said.
After being discharged from the U.S. Navy in 1946, he was ambling through San Francisco, where he gravitated to lumberyards in the area.
He was offered a job at one of the lumberyards in South San Francisco, but his father was ill and he was asked to stay in Ramona. He stayed and went into the family business, Ransom Brothers Lumber Co., after his father died in 1948.
His interest in lumberyards came from growing up around it. He didn’t have much to do with it while he was in high school, but he had it in his mind that he would do something of that nature when he was older.
“All I did was work. Work, work, work,” he said.
There are no errors with Bob, Virginia said. “What you see is what you get. He is honorable, honest. He’s worked hard all his life. You’ll never find a more honest man, anywhere.”
“Thank you, dear,” he said softly.
Last year he went through a bout of pneumonia while living in Morro Bay.
Virginia received a call in the middle of the night from doctors at the San Luis Obispo hospital where he was being treated, saying that if she wanted to say goodbye, get to the hospital right away.
But Bob made it through. Doctors told him that he might never be able to walk again due to the impact of his illness. He went to a rehabilitation home so he could re-learn to walk and he walks freely and without a cane or a walker, though he’s had to give up golf.
“Tell him he can’t do it, and he will,” Ruth said.
He has been a member of the Ramona Rotary Club since 1948. He’s never missed a meeting and he isn’t about to.
When asked what the key is to enjoying life, Bob replied simply, “People.”
“Bob is a people person,” Virginia said. “He could talk to anybody.”
“It was a wonderful life,” he said. “And still is.”
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- Ramona Pregnancy Care Clinic celebrates 20 years
- Ramblers travel club celebrates 30 years
- RHS celebrates 90/90 Club
- CIF awards life passes to Bill Tamburrino, Joe Bess
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