A longtime weatherman on KOMO-TV, Mr. Ramsey was a fast-talking, wisecracking, plaid-jacket-wearing fixture in Seattle-area homes from 1965 to 1985. Mr. Ramsey died Sunday. He was 87.
Ray Ramsey made bad weather fun.
A longtime weatherman on KOMO-TV, Mr. Ramsey was a fast-talking, wisecracking, plaid-jacket-wearing fixture in Seattle-area homes from 1965 to 1985, the kind of quirky personality that seems increasingly rare among our homogenized public figures.
Mr. Ramsey died Sunday. He was 87.
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Back when people changed the channel by getting off the couch to turn the dial, Mr. Ramsey was a local institution, almost on par with Dave Niehaus or J.P. Patches.
Working without a teleprompter or cue cards, he was known for his machine-gun delivery, sprinkled with jokes and peculiar terminology.
Often, whatever he was pointing to became “these little chicken flickers,” said his daughter Jodi Lien. He also invented words such as “drizmal.” You could almost hear the rimshots when he told jokes; you could hear members of the crew giggling during broadcasts.
“Dad used to say it was all about personality, personality, personality — that’s what people are drawn to,” said Lien.
“No one, NO ONE, could talk faster than Ray, not even those people they use for disclaimers at the end of car commercials,” KOMO-TV reporter Bryan Johnson wrote in an email. “The amazing thing was that although nobody can understand the car commercials, everyone could understand Ray.”
Then there were the jackets, once described as “test-pattern quality.”
Lien said her mother usually helped pick her dad’s wardrobe. But one time she was skiing when Mr. Ramsey selected his jacket. Later, on-air, he reached up to point out something on a map and the jacket’s price tag was still attached for all to see.
At his KOMO retirement party, Mr. Ramsey joked about his age, saying he was old when “they had 3-cent stamps” and his wife was the “only woman in the neighborhood with a recipe for curds and whey.”
Another time he told this one on-air: “I went to the doctor, told him my foot hurt, asked him what I should do. He said ‘limp.’ “
Mr. Ramsey was born in Spokane, an only child raised by a single mother, Lien said. His first broadcasting job was on radio, Spokane’s KREM.
In 1964, he and his wife, Jo, moved to Seattle. He worked as a rock ‘n’ roll deejay at KOL before moving on to his passion, weather, at KOMO-TV and radio. This was back when weathermen wrote temperatures on a glorified blackboard, said Steve Pool, who succeeded Mr. Ramsey at KOMO.
At times, Mr. Ramsey was on the radio from home at 6 a.m., then he’d go teach junior-high students in Bellevue before arriving at KOMO in the late afternoon, said video editor Joe Wren. He’d stay at the station until the 11 p.m. news was done.
For Lien, it was great growing up on Mercer Island with a celebrity dad. She recalled a dad-daughter dinner-dance in high school. “We were in the gym and he came bursting in. It was like this big light came into the room and other fathers all wanted to meet him, and he put a show on, shaking everyone’s hands, spinning me around the dance floor. And then he was gone to prepare for another broadcast.”
Lien’s husband, Todd, was a 16-year old interested in broadcasting when he first met Mr. Ramsey.
“Ray was as nice in person as he was on the air. And no matter how busy he was, he always made time for me, whenever I wanted to drop by the station,” said Todd Lien.
That’s a familiar refrain about Mr. Ramsey. He learned everyone’s name at the station, said KOMO-TV reporter Connie Thompson. “If you worked at KOMO while he was here, regardless of your position,” Thompson said, “you could count on Ray Ramsey to see you in the hallway, look you in the eye, and acknowledge you by name. ‘Constance, God love ya!’ he would always say to me.”
Pool called him “Dad.” He said Mr. Ramsey was one of the most supportive — and genuine — people he’s known in broadcasting. “There was no difference in his personality on-air and off. If there’s anything I learned from him, it’s that: Just be yourself,” Pool said.
Mr. Ramsey slipped comfortably into low-key retirement. “When he walked off the set he was done. He didn’t have any desire to stay in the spotlight at all; he was happy to be out of it,” Jodi Lien said.
He enjoyed gardening, crossword puzzles and spending time with his wife, particularly in one of their favorite places, Reno, Nev. Mr. Ramsey liked to gamble, his daughter said, and loved to play the ponies at Longacres, now Emerald Downs. He even had a race named after him, said his daughter, the “Ray Ramsey Purse.”
Mr. Ramsey is survived by his wife, Jo, of Mercer Island; daughter, Jodi Lien (Todd) of Bellevue; and son, Scott (Connie) of Issaquah.
There are no public services at Mr. Ramsey’s request. Donations in his memory may be made at The Humane Society for Seattle/King County.
Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or firstname.lastname@example.org