James Reece Ramsey
With sadness, the family of Jim Ramsey shares that he passed peacefully in his sleep on February 26, 2020. Despite recent health challenges, Jim continued his favorite pastimes with his family until his last days. His sharp wit, optimism, and occasional crankiness never diminished.
Jim was born Jan. 5, 1932, at St. Charles Hospital in Bend, to Augustus and Wilma (Mendenhall) Ramsey. Raised on the Ramsey family ranch north of Madras, he and his younger brother, Jerry, occupied themselves exploring the rich landscape, including horseback trips around Mt. Jefferson with his family and friends. Jim's early schooling was at the single-room New Era schoolhouse on the Agency Plains. At Madras High, he played sports and was active in FFA. He forged lifelong friendships with Loyd Vincent, Pat Thomas, and, later, Norm Weigand.
Early in his childhood, Jim took up fly-fishing and his skills would eventually lead to his status throughout the Pacific Northwest as a legendary fly fisherman. His love for the outdoors also extended to climbing; he partnered with his brother Jerry and fellow Madras resident Jack Watts on Central Oregon mountains and at nearby Smith Rock. Jim achieved numerous first ascents, and, with Jerry, he co-authored the first climbing guide to Smith Rock. In 1961, he free-climbed The Awl at Smith, which at the time was one of the hardest free climbs in America. Later, serving on the Oregon Recreational Trails Advisory Council, Jim helped increase access to the state's most beautiful natural areas, including Smith Rock.
At the University of Oregon, Jim was president of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, received a bachelor's degree in history — and fell in love with Diane Stout. Jim and Diane celebrated their 64th anniversary in September 2019. After college, Jim served in the Navy, eventually moving back to the family ranch in 1958 with Diane and their daughter, Julie. Here he raised cattle and farmed with his father, managing the home ranch and other properties. Later, Jim joined the Central Electric Co-op in Redmond as consumer relations director. He retired from the office job in 1987, but avidly continued his other jobs: fly-fishing, raising cattle, fly-fishing, growing a massive vegetable garden, fly-fishing, exploring new places on road trips with Diane, crabbing and clamming at the Oregon Coast, and, sometimes, fly-fishing.
Many of Jim's favorite places were found on maps revealing bodies of water that, maybe, held fish. For many years, he initiated summer expeditions with his brother, Jerry, and son, Bill, to areas including the high lakes of Central Oregon, the pristine Eastern Sierras, and other remote regions of the West. An annual fly-fishing week in northern Idaho with longtime friends was on every calendar for more than 20 years. The consummate hunter-gatherer, Jim was also a devoted mushroomer, frequenting the forests of Mt. Hood with Madras friends Pete Carlson and Bill Rhoades.
Throughout his life, Jim devoted tremendous time and energy to organizations he believed in. He served on numerous boards of directors, including those of COCC (for 16 years, including multiple terms as chair), the Northwest Public Power Association, the Museum at Warm Springs, and the Deschutes River Conservancy. Jim also coached the Warm Springs women's volleyball team for several years, traveling throughout the Northwest for tournaments.
Perhaps the only thing Jim enjoyed more than the outdoors was sharing his favorite outdoor pursuits with friends and family, especially his grandchildren. To his mind, no child was too young to be introduced to fishing, huckleberry picking, camping, clamming, or crabbing. Moreover, no story about his adventures (true or based on some shred of truth) was excluded from conversations with friends and loved ones.
Jim is survived by his wife, Diane; daughter, Julie Talbot; son, Bill; daughter and son-in-law, Ann and Tim Goss; grandchildren, David Talbot and his fiancé Sarah Szuhay, Maxwell Goss, and Claire Goss; brother and sister-in-law, Jerry and Dorothy Ramsey; and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins. He is also survived by a cadre of fishing buddies and fellow storytellers who loved his love of a good yarn. All will miss him dearly.
A celebration of life will be held at the Museum at Warm Springs on Sunday, April 26, at 1 pm.
Donations in Jim's memory may be made to the Central Oregon Flyfishers, the Museum at Warm Springs, or the Ramsey Memorial Scholarship via the Jefferson County Scholarship Association.