Tribute to Victor Alan Ramey

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Victor Alan Ramey
June 21, 1948 – November 24, 2005

Dedicated Father – Artist – Editor – Educator – Friend
Mentor – Scientist – Web Master – Writer – Videographer


Comments from Friends and Colleagues

Those of us who had the opportunity to work with Vic on a daily basis were amazed at all the creative energy and innovations that flowed from him. If you want to get a sampling of his creative genius, just look at the last issue of Aquaphyte, a training video, or the Aquatic Plant Information Retrieval System database. Vic's talent and intellect have left a lasting educational legacy that any of us in aquatics would cherish. We miss him in more ways than we know or feel today.

Joe Joyce
former director

My name is David Dusenbury, and I am proud to have been Best Friends For Life with Vic going back more than 35 years. I’m so glad that this Memorial Gathering was initiated by some of you who worked with him in recent years and I hope you don’t mind a distant stranger, who also happened to love Vic, joining in from afar with a few ancient recollections of my own. I’m sorry I can’t be there in person, but I want to thank Vic’s ex-wife Beth (also a life long friend) for relaying information about this event and my brother Richard, who kindly volunteered to share my thoughts about Vic with you.

A few special friends in our lives give us not only pleasure in their company, but lead us into unexpectedly life-changing personal choices. For me, Vic was that most special of friends. It would probably be most appropriate to recount a small humorous anecdote or two from the thousands of good memories of time spent with Vic but there are just too many to choose from. Instead I want to explain how the way he lived his life so profoundly affected mine. From our first encounter as UF students, it was obvious that Vic was a unique individual. Not many Gators at that time shared Vic’s enthusiasms for participating in choreographed disruptions of class lectures, satirizing politics by campaigning for student government office on a parody-based platform and spending after-class afternoons watching with great delight the inaugural episodes of Sesame Street on Public Television. (He always loved the Muppets.) In leaving campus life behind at the height of the Vietnam War, Vic showed his great personal courage by applying to his local draft board for Conscientious Objector status, a board which had a notoriously reactionary history of denying such applications. Vic’s determination and strength of character won the day, but it was not easy. I’m sure that he would have gone to prison if necessary rather than support a war which he regarded as wholly immoral.

Through a college psych major friend, he found a job which would fulfill his required two years of Alternative Service, as a teacher at the Fernald School for the Retarded in the suburbs of Boston. Within a year, Vic wrote to tell me that he had saved enough money to pay back a few hundred dollars he still owed for a car we had swapped back and forth in Gainesville days. Curiously enough, it was a 1952 Mercedes Benz sedan which looked more like a Rolls Royce limo than a family car, but that’s a story for another time. In typical Vic fashion, he refused to just send the money to California and insisted that I come visit in person to collect the debt. It was his way of ensuring that we would spend time together before many more months had passed. He not only paid me back the money, but gave me space in his apartment and took me to work with him where he helped me get hired as well. Through my subsequent employment at the Fernald School with Vic, I met several other great friends, one of whom led me into work with plants and another of whom eventually became my wife. It was through the pathway of Vic’s friendship that I found my lifelong horticultural vocation, my lifelong Boston-area location and my lifelong companion, Nan. I owe Vic so much, and now there is no way to pay it back. I wish I could make him come and collect it in person. They say that every individual is unique but Vic was extra-unique. It was always a pleasure to spend time with someone who had
such a total lack of self-consciousness. He was always completely himself, an irreplaceably rare and special person. I loved him and will miss him forever.

Eulogy of VIC RAMEY
By David Dusenbury
January 19, 2006

Vic Ramey
By Nan Rumpf, January 19, 2006

I met Vic Ramey when I visited Gainesville with my husband David Dusenbury – a college friend of Vic’s. Whenever we came to Gainesville, Vic was ready to drop everything in order to spend time with us and show us his favorite outdoor spots in the Gainesville area and to share his books and his house. He loved the beauties of Paynes Prairie and the clear cold springs of central Florida. His mind was always open to learning new things and he was generous to a fault. I will miss his honesty and his spontaneous enjoyment of life.

No one reached more people in the field of aquatic plant management than Vic Ramey. He not only had a vision, but more importantly, the passion and persistenceto bring information to the public at all levels. He did this with little permanent staff, few recurring funds, and borrowed or donated equipment. While westruggled to find better ways to control new plant problems, Vic assembled a team and produced the largest world wide online library with more than 60,000articles on aquatic plants and their management. While we searched for ways to communicate with the public, Vic cobbled together other teams and funding from government, private, and public sources to develop lesson plans, guides, photo-murals, and a 600-page web site covering all aspects of aquatic plants in Florida.

Some educators stand confidently before their audiences to tell them what they think they ought to know. Vic circulated among stakeholders and asked what they wanted to learn. Some leaders resolutely exhort their subjects to press forward, doing their best with what they have. Vic worked behind the scenes, with grass roots, to provide managers with the technologies they needed. This quiet leadership led to a web site accessed by more than 55,000 visitors scoring more than1.6 million hits per month. His latest and perhaps most passionate and ambitious project was, with the assistance of teachers at all grade levels, to develop lesson plans and learning activities using the materials he had created over the past 25 years. While meeting Florida classroom standards and benchmarks, his goal was to introduce aquatic and invasive plant issues into the environmental conscience of all Floridians, starting with our young people.

In developing instructional messages, Vic was adamant that we should not only point out the problems and dangers of invasive plants, but we should provide alternatives as well show people how beautiful native plants are in their natural surroundings in southeastern wetlands, lakes and rivers. So while we naturally mourn the tragic loss of this wonderful man with the quirky smile, let us also be thankful for and reflect upon our time shared with Vic Ramey and the gifts that he has left for us.

When great leaders and innovators are lost, we often are inspired to create monuments or memorials to honor their achievements. Vic has already done this for us with the website and his many instructional tools. Perhaps the best way to honor Vic is to preserve what he has already accomplished and continue moving forward – up the path that he has laid out for us.

Vic Ramey – a leader – an innovator – our friend.
Reprinted from the Winter 2006 issue of Aquatics magazine
by Jeff Schardt/DEP Bureau of Invasive Plant Management

I would like to express my deep condolences to the IFAS family per the loss of Victor Ramey.

I did not know him, other than his wonderful educational plant identification video series which I borrowed from your website, to both educate my students as an environmental science teacher, and with my staff as an environmental specialist with FL Dept. of Environmental Protection.

In this respect, Mr. Ramey touched many more lives than can be imagined in sharing his love and stewardship of Florida’s natural communities.

My deepest sympathy,
Cynthia Lott
Environmental Specialist II
Fl Dept. of Environmental Protection

One of the Most unpretentious folks I have ever met. I really enjoyed Vic. Great guy, focused and talented. Genuinely open and cordial.

Drew Leslie
Florida DEP Bureau of Invasive Plant Management

I first met Victor in 1964 on the west side of the Indian River Lagoon. Befitting his future work in aquatic matters, he arrived by boat. Victor loved nature and wild Florida. His home on Levy Prairie kept him close to it. Victor asked Ellie Blair to paint some pictures of the land before his cracker-style house was built. I am fortunate to have one of those paintings. Mine is studded with tall palms among the wild grass that grew down to the swamp. Victor is not in the picture, but his spirit dwells in that place. I see him in my mind’s eye walking towards the prairie, holding his camera. The educational materials and pictures on this web site that Victor created are a wonderful memorial to him.

Bill Beck

I did some illustrations of invasive aquatic plants for Vic when I lived in Gainesville. It was fun the way he just sat me out in the screened rooms by the tanks full of invasive plants to do my sketches. It was a great experience to do scientific illustration in the field. He always remembered to send me copies of publications when he used those illustrations, and as a matter of fact, I am still using the mouse pad he sent me. I know that it will be hard to fill his shoes. I am sure he would want his family and friends to remember him fondly and with a smile.

Dale A. Johnson
Scientific Illustrator

I was briefly employed by Vic as a graphic designer/web designer from 2002-2003. I had never done any graphic or web design before, but he liked my poetry so he hired me. That’s a pretty neat way to get a job, but that was how Vic was. He didn’t let the fact that I didn’t know what I was doing get in the way – he just believed in me. Granted, I never argued with any of my bosses as much as I argued with him, and I’ll never forget the time he ripped his eyeglasses off his face and threw them (I should clarify, not at me), but he was a truly funny, charming, and dedicated person in his own special way. I very much regret not having the chance to say goodbye. So I say it now. Goodbye, Vic, and thanks for everything.

Sara Reinhart

I considered Vic to be one of the best friends I had during my 24 years in Gainesville. When I used to hang around at Vic’s house, often he’d lead a walk with 10 or more of us around the neighborhood, then out on to Levy Prairie. He had a greatly generous and enthusiastic spirit.

Tom Whitmore

Vic touched many people with his fun loving ways and super personality. He was such a wonderful person. He always brought out the good in people. He will be greatly missed. I’ll keep him and his family in my prayers.

Lucy Marshall,
Biosorb, Inc.

[Vic] did wonderful work in building a broad array of outreach tools at CAIP, such that it became an international center of information for aquatic and invasive plant management. I’m so sorry to hear of his passing.

Kathy Burks
Florida Natural Areas Inventory

I only met Vic a few months ago, but it feels as though I have known him for years. To make an impact in my life in such a short time just proves how extraordinary Vic was. I am sorry that I did not have the opportunity to work with him longer. My heart and prayers go out to his close friends and family. Thank you Vic for touching my life, if only for a moment.

Kimberly Lawrence
Osceola County Lakes Manager

It was most surprising and depressing to hear about Vic. I had called to talk to him about an idea. It was one of those semi-crazy concepts that could be terrific or a big bomb. However, if anyone could have seen its potential and made it work, it would have been Vic, since it involved aquatic plants and making information about them more available.

With sadness that he’s gone and appreciation for all that he created for our use,
Paula Biles
Executive Director
International Water Lily and Water Gardening Society

Vic hired me to assist him with web design only a few short months before his passing. I immediatley liked his quirky and fun personality, and found that we worked very well together. The amount of work he could produce was simply mind-boggling, and his creative flair lends spirit, even now, to the projects he has embarked upon. I am very grateful for the opportunity to have been his friend and co-worker, and to continue his efforts in the field of environmental education.

Beth DeGroat
Web Specialist

Vic was a one-of-a-kind guy. When I came to UF/CAIP, Vic took it upon himself to serve as an advisor, of sorts, about how to "get around the system" of UF/IFAS bureaucracy. None of his advice ever worked for me, of course – I never had that "Ramey charisma." He could never remember my name and, as of last week, he still called me, "Shirley, Sharon, Michelle, Stephanie" or whatever, which always made me laugh. His charm and good-nature were indelible. CAIP just won’t be the same without him.

Cheryl McCormick

Vic lives on through the organ donor program and continues to help others. He will be greatly missed.

Bill Haller
Acting Director

We will miss Vic. He was an inspiration to all who knew him.

Bill Moore

Dear All,
Vic Ramey volunteered with Neighborhood Nutrition Network (NNN), a community food project whose mission was to "build community through fresh food." Vic consistently volunteered every Saturday morning that our group harvested extra fresh vegetables to share with people. Whether in his van or cute red sports car, Vic gave a lift (literally, but especially in spirit) to the elementary and middle school kids who were also volunteering.

Attached is a picture of Vic helping us make a batch of hot pepper jelly that became a signature product of high school youth employees over the last 4 years. Vic’s surprised happy expression and the teen Romeo Davis’ smile shows the giving energy that Vic shared with so many.

I am thankful that I have known Vic Ramey,
Ellen Huntley

I cannot recall when Vic and I became friends, but in high school we were very close until the vortices of Time, Academe, and the US Army variously enlarged our respective orbits. While this may amaze those few members of the liberal left who feel he shared their beliefs, from the inception of our relationship I knew Victor as a committed conservative with substantive anti-socialist credentials. When the New England arrogance of Robert Kennedy and Tip O’Neill continued to impede racial tolerance and impugn the South, our Confederate heritage and regard for Barry Goldwater cemented our friendship, as did numerous forays on horseback into the wilds of our family’s Florida ranchland for alligators, armadillos, rattlesnakes, outlaw cattle, and the occasional P. lotor. I remember the image of Victor standing erect in a late summer storm on a cypress branch 30 feet above a swamp, preparing to capture the raccoon which had bitten him just three trees and as many swims since he first attempted to seize it in his jacket. I remember a summer day transporting hay bales aboard our ’49 Studebaker cattle truck: as the vehicle returned to the barn we lay happily exhausted atop the bales, ’til a live oak rolled us brusquely off and gravity deposited us on the dirt road twelve feet below. I remember motoring up a flooded jungle river in Brevard County in 1964, soon after Hurricane Cleo raised water levels as much as six feet. Trapped in a violent eddy, I watched Vic upend an object which revealed itself as a decaying sea turtle: in consonance with the force of the eddy, which we could not immediately escape, the animal’s stench reduced us both to gaspingly gesticulating caricatures of h. sapiens. I remember Victor driving his mother’s pink Cadillac convertible in Melbourne, top down, with Huntley the Great Dane in back and Brinkley the Chihuahua riding shotgun. I remember visiting Boston as a guest of Vic and his lovely wife Beth, where we marveled at the minimal vertical space aboard the USS Constitution, spent hours at the New England Aquarium, enjoyed afternoons with Verdi and Villa Lobos, and prepared gourmet meals of our Quincy Market acquisitions while Victorregaled us with his adventures as a technician in a psychiatric ward. I remember marveling at the beauty of the cypress home which he and Beth designed and constructed at the edge of Payne’s Prairie (where my grandfather wintered his cattle and near where my great grandfather rode with Dickison), and my amazement at the alacrity with which their dog mounted ‘his’ air mattress to float leisurely about their pool. I recall Victor recounting the visit of an Australian friend, freshly arrived in Florida, who on encountering a lengthy specimen of A. mississippiensis enjoying the warmth of a Micanopy roadway exclaimed, ‘What the BLOODY HELL is THAT!?’

Too soon has rolling Time pressed from his vintage our Victor, yet another of the loveliest and the best. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember him. To be sure, we shall all turn down many an empty glass, but how now should we fear Death? Our friend has gone before.

Walt Radencic

Vic brought a unique perspective and vision to his work – innovative, artistic, and pragmatic. In short, he made a substantial difference in our profession and will not be easily replaced. Vic was a good guy.

Don C. Schmitz
Biologist and Research Program Manager
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Bureau of Invasive Plant Management

Vic’s enthusiasm for his work was contagious. Whenever I called him for advice or information, he always made me feel more energized and excited about my projects. He was such a wealth of information. He is sorely missed.

Melissa Harrison
Pinellas County Environmental Management

Vic Ramey was one of the nicest folks on earth. He was always so helpful to me as a botany student at UF in the early ’80s and continued so after I left. His office was not far from my office at McCarty Hall. I spent countless hours at this library as a student. This is so sad to me to find this news about his untimely death on the website today.

Payne’s Prairie serves as a most appropriate location for Vic’s tribute walk. This Prairie is where I did some volunteer work for the FL Park Service as an interpretive guide. The Preserve gave me refuge from graduate school, family crises and will always remain special to me. My favorite sounds there were those of the sandhill cranes.

Vic, I am positive, is missed by the many, many students that he helped throughout his career at UF.

Anita Tiller
Botanist Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens Humble, Tx