By Karen Brainard
Ramona’s first turkey queen, Gertrude Page, leaves behind a legacy for her family to cherish. The 94-year-old lifelong Ramona resident died in her home on Jan. 22.
“She was just an amazing person that always had a smile and a sparkle in her eyes,” said Ramonan Beebee Wilson,
who was Page’s caregiver for the past 3-1/2 years.
According to Wilson, Page was a proud Ramonan who loved to talk about her life here, especially in the old days.
She was born on June 17, 1918, in Ramona to Mildred and John “Prof” H. Wilson. Her father was principal of Ramona Union High School from 1917 to 1948.
When Page was 17 years old, the student body of Ramona High School voted her to be the town’s first turkey queen.
“When I was chosen, my mother had the idea of making a cape for me of turkey feathers,” she wrote in a scrapbook.
Page told how she and friend Mary Kay Kearney (whose married name was Pinkard) spent hours gathering turkey feathers from the Kearney turkey ranch.
““We felt quite ‘in touch’ with our turkey feather finery,” she wrote.
According to newspaper clippings in her scrapbook, 10,000 people turned out for that turkey day in 1935 for a five-hour program that included a parade on a rainy November day. The state senator, Ed Fletcher, presented the citizenship trophy for Ramona, and Page accepted it on behalf of the community. The trophy, awarded by the California Chamber of Commerce, was given to the community that showed the largest percentage of its registered voters casting ballots in the general election in the state.
When she accepted the trophy, Page said, “We, the students of the Ramona Union High School, are very proud to have had a small part in such an important service. We believe that in helping to get out the voters, we have learned the value of our rights of franchise.”
Page went on to attend college, and after graduating, she married her childhood sweetheart, Fred Page, in 1940. The two met when they were 9 years old and Fred had just moved to Ramona, said their children.
During World War II, Page worked for Ransom Brothers while Fred served in the Army. They built a ranch on the corner of Highland Valley Road and State Route 67 and had two sons, Jan and James, and a daughter, Joan (Jo).
Ramonan Ron Rodolff said when he and Jan were Cub Scouts, Page was his den mother.
“She was like my mom. She was always someone you could depend on,” Rodolff said.
Around 1948, Page and several close friends, including Mary Kay Pinkard, Cynthia Kunkel, Lucille Hager, Caroline Raymond, Marge Butters, Helen Jones, and Ida Vee Morgan, started up a monthly bridge group that lives on today in a new generation.
A story about their group, titled “Six Decades Later…Bridge Club Refuses to Throw in the Cards,” was featured in the Sentinel’s May 31, 2012, issue, with Pinkard, Page, and Kunkel—the remaining members—still meeting and socializing, along with their daughters and female relatives. Pinkard died on June 30, a month after the story ran. Kunkel, who was 97 then, lives in Poway.
The loyal and long-lasting friendship that the original bridge club members shared is enjoyed by their daughters.
“We’re still best friends,” Page’s daughter, Jo Wood, said of her childhood friends. “It was an incredible time to grow up. It’s a gift you hand your child.”
The daughters and now granddaughters of the original members continue to meet monthly. Wood, who lives in Florida, said she gets back about every other month.
Page worked as a teacher’s aide to Esther McDonald at Ramona Elementary School, and then as secretary to Glae
McDonald, the school’s principal, before retiring. She and her husband were involved in many organizations and served on community boards. They were also active in the First Congregational Church of Ramona.
Fred, who owned the Santa Maria Cabinet Shop, died in 1990. They had moved into Ramona Terrace Estates mobile home park in 1971, and that is where Page lived until her death.
“She didn’t need much help. She was very independent. She was a strong woman who I’ll miss,” said Beebee Wilson, who is not related to Page’s family.
“She never had one bad thing to say about anybody. She lived a good life. She taught me a lot.”
According to Page’s children, their mother enjoyed her family above all, loved crafts, drama, and music, was an avid reader, and “could knit or crochet anything.”
“There are many homes throughout Ramona that hold her handiwork and his (Fred’s) woodcrafting,” they said.
Page’s son, Jim, still lives in Ramona, and son Jan lives in Washington. Page had six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
The family was still making arrangements, as many members live out of state, but said a service is planned tentatively for March 9.