Katie Miner always knew when Samantha Ramsay was walking to her office in the Niccolls Building. Miner, a University of Idaho senior instructor of food and nutrition, and dietetics, said she could hear her colleague as she made her way down the hall — stopping in to each office to say hello, asking what was new in her colleagues’ lives and laughing along the way.
Miner first met Ramsay in 2004 when they were both beginning their nutrition and dietetics careers at the UI.
She said Ramsay had an infectious kind of enthusiasm that she brought into the workplace and all other aspects of her life.
“She was always saying ‘hi’ to everybody and popping in to say ‘hello’ and ‘I’m just checking in, how are you doing?’” Miner said. “She was always optimistic, which was something so special about her. She went through a lot of hard times, but she really never lost her positive spirit.”
Ramsay, an assistant professor of nutrition at the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences died unexpectedly on Sunday, July 30 after being struck by lightning while climbing the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps.
Her husband, former professional baseball player Rob Ramsay, died Aug. 4, 2016, due to complications that arose after he beat brain cancer. The couple is survived by two sons, Ryan, 12, and Reidar, 9.
Shawn O’Neal, the director of UI Student Involvement, said he first met the Ramsays through their children, who were close in age. O’Neal said Ramsay’s passions and her interest in others were clear in how much she invested in conversations with those around her.
“I could just talk to her for hours, she was that kind of person,” O’Neal said. “She was so enthusiastic and she cared about you and she cared about what you were doing, and she was so passionate about stuff that I think everyone has had this experience with her. She was so present for every conversation with you.”
Samantha Ramsay played collegiate volleyball at Penn State and Washington State University (WSU), and was highly regarded in the field of nutrition and dietetics, while Rob Ramsay was a relief pitcher for the Seattle Mariners and played collegiate baseball at WSU. Despite the couple’s many accomplishments, O’Neal said they remained humble.
“They beat brain cancer together. Samantha really had to — she had to have a lot of patience to be the mother to two boys and the wife to a man who needed a lot of care himself,” O’Neal said. “These are elite people who have done great, great things and accomplished stuff most humans would never come close to and that’s kind of who they were as people too, and they were just the most humble people ever.”
O’Neal said Ramsay wasn’t a normal person, but rather, an exceptional one.
“These people who you come across in your life, these are eclipses. These are comets. These are people who can’t settle for being normal, they need to be exceptional, and I think that was Samantha,” O’Neal said.
It was a kind of exceptionalism that Miner said carried over into Ramsay’s teaching style.
“Many students would say, ‘Dr. Ramsay is the reason I’m becoming a dietitian,” Miner said. “She was so excited about the profession and her passion really hooked people in. They wanted to be a part of that.”
Barry Bilderback, an associate professor of music history with the Lionel Hampton School of Music, experienced Ramsay’s ability to connect with others first-hand during a faculty-led study abroad course in Ghana. Although Bilderback was the instructor for the course, he said Ramsay’s ability to connect with his students and the locals they worked with was effortless.
“The students, they just sang her praises and raved about her talent, her abilities, her care and compassion, her dedication to what she does,” Bilderback said. “Every word that was written or spoken, you know, in praise of Samantha was as genuine as can be, as genuine as Samantha herself.”
Bilderback said Ramsay was the kind of person who didn’t take herself too seriously, but she took whatever she was doing seriously.
“She was someone who was dedicated to people and experiential learning,” Bilderback said. “No matter what it was, if she was committed to it she took it on as though it was the most important thing in her life at that moment.”
Bilderback and Ramsay sat next to each other on their flights to and from West Africa, a time during which he said he learned about her devotion to her loved ones.
“She loved her family,” Bilderback said. “I learned so much about her devotion to her husband, Rob, and her children, her two boys. She just was so proud of her family dynamic, her whole family — her parents, everyone.”
Although Ramsay’s death was unexpected, O’Neal said he is comforted in knowing the Ramsays’ children are surrounded by a loving community.
“Those boys are loved. They are so loved — by their parents, by the people around them,” O’Neal said. “Samantha’s mother … and stepfather — they’re people I admire very much, and those boys are just surrounded by wonderful people.”
While the Moscow and UI communities continue to mourn this loss, Miner said Ramsay will be remembered throughout the university for the spirit and energy she shared with her colleagues, students and loved ones.
“She was a big part of us,” Miner said. “She was inspirational and she was encouraging and she was a really bright spot. We definitely feel that that’s missing and it’s hard to move forward, but she would have wanted us to move forward. We’re doing the best we can for her, and we’ll always keep that spirit that she gave us.”
Corrin Bond can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @CorrBond