Recently retired San Gabriel High School (SGHS) history teacher Michael Ramsay suddenly passed away on Jan. 13 at the age of 62.
Ramsay taught in the social studies department and coached for numerous sports including volleyball, swim, and golf for a total of 30 years at SGHS. He took history courses and participated in volleyball and swim at the University of Arizona which inspired him to become both a history teacher and a coach. Ramsay loved what he did for his students and colleagues, as they knew him for being spirited with his work.
Former science teacher Larry Kanow coached the volleyball team with Ramsay for over 15 years. Kanow described him as outgoing and personable and said that Ramsay loved working with young people as both a coach, teacher, colleague, and friend.
“His legacy is that he was fun-loving and impulsive yet at the same time caring and giving; he’s that friend that you love to spend time with and sometimes get in trouble with,” Kanow said. “I met him in the parking lot when he first came to SG. He said he picked the area by throwing a dart at a map. He made quite a first impression as a carefree and impulsive young man….If you saw the movie, The Dukes of Hazzard, where they entered and exited the car through the window, that’s what I first saw him do when he drove in.”
Ramsay was described as a relaxed teacher who was easy to talk to and open to his students according to senior Shannon Reyes.
“Personally, he made me have a different perspective on life,” Reyes said. “He would tell me to worry about myself and my future, and not worry about what my friends are doing; to be authentic. I am grateful that he was my teacher; he really changed my life for the better. May he rest in peace.”
Senior Caden Ong thought of Ramsay as more of a close friend instead of a teacher, constantly messing around with the students which built a connection between them. Ong also remembered poignant times in class.
“In class, he has this box full of memories of his past,” Ong said. “He brought it out one time to share with us and he would show us pictures of what he’s been through. I just saw some photos I related to and I found out he was the volleyball coach; he’s been here for a long time.”
Social studies teacher and department chair Henry Osborne enjoyed Ramsay’s sense of humor. Ramsay affected him, along with other people, by showing him to not take himself too seriously. “I think that’s a valuable lesson that most of us can learn from him.”
Osborne was also saddened that Ramsay could not enjoy his retirement longer. “We miss [him] around here and if I were to say anything to him, I would have said: ‘Retire earlier so that you can enjoy retirement a little longer,’” Osborne said.
Ramsay was a frequent visitor to the Business and Technology Academy (BTA) garden to check up on the memorial tree planted for his friend John Robb, a former teacher at San Gabriel who passed away in 2012, said history teacher Nicole Manalang.
“The tree was growing and he would always ask to give him an update on the tree because his classroom was right next to the garden,” Manalang said. “There were days where he was like ‘the branch is falling or it’s leaning a little bit.’”
BTA has decided to plant a bush for Ramsay that is a native plant to California and Arizona, Manalang said. “Mr. Ramsay has roots in Arizona; he grew up there. [This is a] kind of a cool homage to him.”
An SGHS memorial in honor of Ramsay is set for Jan. 31 at 3:15 p.m after school in the Business and Technology Academy garden. It will replace the Celebration of Life set on Feb. 3. Refreshments will be provided. There will also be a Sunday jam session on Jan. 28 at 2 p.m at the Silver Dollar, 10729 Lower Azusa El Monte, which was one of Ramsay’s favorite places.
Updated Jan. 26.