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  Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, October 29, 2015, Pages 1, 9 & 18

Mount Ayr benefactor Paul Ramsey dead at 92
By Britt Fell

[Editor's note: Word was received this week of the death of Paul Ramsey in Newport Beach, CA.
Ramsey was well-known in this area as a benefactor, adopted resident and all-around mover-and-shaker.
An obituary for Ramsey appears on page 19 in this week's Record-News.
Back in 2012, Record News intern Britt Fell wrote a profile of Ramsey, and we share it in this issue as a tribute to Ramsey and his legacy in Ringgold County.]

One man's vision transforms Mount Ayr

Imagine for a moment that you have led an extremely successful life, earning a fortune and a bit of fame and have been blessed with a good family and a multitude of friends.

Now imagine that the time has come to retire and live out the rest of your life as you desire, free from the burden of work, your children grown and living their own lives. How would you choose to spend your retirement? Do you see yourself on the deck of a cruise ship, perhaps reminiscing about your glory days?

Paul Ramsey, a Des Moines native turned Hollywood real estate broker, found himself considering this very option, but decided that this prospect was "about as interesting as watching paint dry." Instead of spending his fortune on entertainment and unnecessary luxuries, Ramsey got a philanthropic itch to put that money to use for the good of others in the place he had called home for six summers of his childhood -- Mount Ayr.

Though he has certainly made a name for himself now, Ramsey was not born into privilege. His mother, Madge Adelia Lesan, was a farm girl and the first woman to attend Drake University. His father, Theodore Ramsey, was a car salesman. His parents committed what was a social taboo at the time by getting a divorce when Ramsey was nine, leaving Ramsey to move in with his grandmother Lesan in Mount Ayr.

It was no doubt difficult for such a young child to be uprooted from his home and moved away from his parents. The blow was softened however by the fact that Ramsey had loving and supported extended family members like his uncle Clyde Lesan, his aunt and uncle Jennie and George Vance, and his Grandmother Ramsey who stepped in to fill the gap left by his mother and father.

They all owned farms around Mount Ayr and Lesanville, and Ramsey visited them frequently, gaining experience and appreciation for farm life and the towns themselves. He grew to love Mount Ayr and considered it home.

The years flew by and Ramsey's dream of being a successful real estate businessman led him to pursue opportunities in Los Angeles, CA. Listening to the things he got involved in, everything from working for the FBS, to serving in the Navy in World War II, to making friends with big-name stars such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Marilyn Monroe and Walt and Roy Disney, it seems there were many highlights in Ramsey's life. Even with all this excitement going on however, Mount Ayr was never far from his mind.

"I used to praise Mount Ayr until everyone was probably sick of hearing it," Ramsey recalled.

Ramsey made a name and fortune for himself when he and his friend Lee Shilling started a real estate business out of Ramsey's car in 1953 in Los Angeles. After making their first $24,950 deal with an A-level movie director in Hollywood, the Ramsey-Shilling company was able to move into the garage, then into the home, and finally to their first office.

Though it took them a little time to get going, their skill and dedication to a number of honorable core values led them to become one of the largest and most successful rest estate companies in Los Angles, and their integrity has earned them an outstanding reputation for doing what's right.

He married Patricia Paul, and the two of them had twin sons, Patrick and Paul II. The four of them lived in Newport Beach, CA while Ramsey's company grew.

Success in the real estate business was a gateway to other successful ventures, such as owning restaurants, yacht clubs, hotels and more. By this time Ramsey has amassed a significant fortune and was able to retire. That is where Mount Ayr reentered the picture. Ramsey wanted to return to his roots and revisit the town that had always occupied such a fond place in his heart.

But when he returned, it was not quite the way that he remembered it. Its people had maintained their warm-hearted charm and a few of the long-standing businesses that he remembered were still [Page 9] in operation, but some of the town square had fallen into disrepair and many of the establishments that he remembered from his childhood were gone. Lesanville, which held similarly affectionate memories for him, had gone from a prosperous railroad community into a ghost town.

Ramsey saw it as an opportunity to give back to a community that had done so much for him when he was growing up. He began to do what Ramsey does best: dream and make deals.

His first project in Ringgold county was to restore his aunt and uncle Jennie and George Vance's farm. Ramsey had visions of rebuilding it to depict rural life from the late 1880s to the mid-1950s and making it into a historical tourist attraction to introduce children and other folks who have grown up in urban areas to old-time farm life.

In 2001, he purchased the 180 acres of land and commissioned Amish carpenters to build the barn. But Ramsey did not stop with replicating the barn. He went on to rebuild Lesanville altogether, complete with a church, cemetery, school, post office and other buildings. Ramsey was confident from the beginning that the project would be a success.

"I'm an optimist," he said. "I expect all [of my business ventures] to be successful," he said. His optimism was not misplaced: Ramsey Farm has never had trouble finding enough guests to reserve its facilities for their events, including some from Hollywood.

Ramsey's efforts to revitalize Mount Ayr didn't end with Ramsey Farm. He then began to see other opportunities for improvement around town.

Ramsey recalled taking his wife Patricia to stay at the old Mount Ayr Motel. "I left her there for about 15 minutes to run an errand," Ramsey recalls. "By the time I got back, she was ready to get back in the car because the place smelled so bad."

As someone who was always encouraging his friends in California to come and stay in Mount Ayr, it only seemed logical that he should make sure there was a nice place to stay when they got here. He therefore purchased the land that now houses the current Mount Ayr Inn and rally other investors to get their project underway.

Some of the other projects Ramsey has been involved in around Mount Ayr have included the Mount Ayr Chamber of Commerce building, Aunt Jennie's Attic, the Princess Theater and Ramsey Supper Club, among others. As Ramsey purchased property and planted businesses and the people of the community have also donated their time and talents to realizing his visions, the shine that Ramsey remembered from his younger years has been returning to Mount Ayr.

He wants to see the town continue to expand. "I've always had a bit of an inferiority complex about Mount Ayr, and I wanted to put it on the map," Ramsey explained. "I don't want to see it get too big though; that would spoil it."

His goal is to rejuvenate the town so that non-locals can't help but notice its charm and be drawn to it, but he wants it to retain its small-town values and friendliness. Part of his plan for achieving this goal is to preserve the turn of the century style buildings around the square.

He believes that this is key to the aesthetic appeal of the town and will help draw more visitors and hopefully new citizens.

"There are so many people who want to go back to the traditions of the good old days," Ramsey observed. "Everyone longs for a hometown, and I want [those who don't have one] to be able to adopt Mount Ayr as their hometown."

Ramsey has a few other projects in the works right now, including Heartland Energy Solutions. Originally, there had been plans for this wind turbine plant to be built elsewhere in Iowa, but Ramsey was able to persuade the company to locate to Mount Ayr instead.

He names this as the most difficult endeavor he's taken on so far, and notices that some are becoming discouraged by the slow progress.

"Rome wasn't built in a day," Ramsey said. "We've had some people from the Netherlands and Germany, experts in wind energy, visit and they ask us what kind of resources and how many people we have to work with. They were very impressed by how much progress has been made in such a short time."

Some of Ramsey's other visions are still under wraps at this time, but he was able to disclose that there were plans in the works to increase educational opportunities in Mount Ayr in affiliation with Graceland University.

After hearing about the amazing positive difference that this one man has been able to put in motion, it is easy for the sparks of his enthusiasm to catch flame in others.

Unfortunately not everyone has the sort of money and resources available to them that Ramsey does. For those who want to help improve their community, Ramsey advises: "You have to be a dreamer, have an education, and a good work ethic. Then all you have to do is live your dreams."

Last year, Ramsey's wife fell ill and it became clear that she would need around the clock care for the rest of her life. After being unimpressed with the level of care provided by hospitals and nursing facilities in Newport Beach, CA, Ramsey brought her back to his beloved Mount Ayr where he knew that she would be well cared for.

"[The staff at Ringgold County Hospital and Clearview Nursing Home] treat her as if she were their own aunt or grandmother," Ramsey said. "When people tank me for what I've done for Mount Ayr, I tell them that Mount Ayr has done a hundred times more for me."

~ ~ ~ ~

OBITUARY ~ PAUL ALLEN RAMSEY
September 25, 1900 ~ February 08, 1981

[Page 18] Paul Allen Ramsey, 92, a pioneer of the Hollywood and Los Angeles real estate industry, passed away after a cerebral hemorrhage and stroke in Newport Beach, with his family at his bedside.

Born and raised in Des Moines, he graduated from North High in Des Moines in 1940, and then attended Drake University and later George Washington University in Washington, D.C. while working as an agent trainee for the Federal Bureau of Investigation before being drafted into the United States Army early during World War II. During his tenure in the United States Army, Paul Ramsey rose to the level of Sergeant. Upon leaving the United States Army at the conclusion of World War II, he moved directly to Hollywood, California.

During his early years in Hollywood, he was the Circulation Manager for the local Hollywood newspaper, the Hollywood Citizen-News, and attended the University of Southern California.

In 1949, he married Florence Patricia Paul of Los Angeles.

In 1953, with his longtime friend, Leland Shilling, Paul Ramsey founded the Ramsey-Shilling Company, and by the end of the decade, built the Ramsey-Shilling Company into one of Los Angelesí leading real estate brokerage firms, with a particular focus in serving Hollywood and the entertainment industry in Hollywood, the Hollywood Hills, Toluca Lake and Studio City. During the 1960ís, he expanded into real estate development, and commercial real estate brokerage, forming Ramsey-Shilling Commercial, where he remained Chairman until the recent acquisition of Ramsey-Shilling Commercial by Avison Young.

In 1974, Paul Ramsey founded the Toluca Lake Tennis Club on a site adjacent to Warner Brothers Studios and Universal City in Toluca Lake and remained a significant owner in what now is the Toluca Lake Tennis & Fitness Center until his death. In 2001, he acquired the Newport Beach Yacht Club in Newport Beach, where he was very active until his death, and for most of the last decade, led the operation of The Tennis Club at Newport Beach in Newport Center.

In 2007, in Mount Ayr, Iowa, Paul Ramsey founded Heartland Energy Solutions, LLC, a leading manufacturer of small commercial wind turbines, and remained Chairman of Heartland until his death. Beginning in the 1990ís, he also established the Lesanville Inn and the Pavilion event center on the historic site of the 1850ís Lesan farm in Mount Ayr, where he fondly spent many of his childhood summers with his aunt and uncle.

Over the years, Paul Ramsey served on many boards including the Iowa Barn Foundation and was also a founding director of the Bank of Hollywood. For years, he maintained numerous civic and business affiliations including both the Hollywood and Toluca Lake Chambers of Commerce.

Paul Ramsey is survived by his loving wife, of 66 years, Florence Patricia Ramsey; his two twin sons, Michael Paul Ramsey, and Patrick Allen Ramsey; his two grandsons, Kyle and Spencer Ramsey; and one granddaughter, Camille Ramsey.

Memorial services will be held on Monday, October 26, 2015 at 11AM at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church, 2046 Mar Vista Dr., Newport Beach, California. - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/latimes/obituary.aspxpid=176187659#sthash.no2Csff7.dpuf

Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, Novermber 26, 2015, Page 14

Ramsey to be honored Nov. 28

1 - 3 p.m. Saturday, November 28th at the Ramsey Farms Pavillion will be a Celebration of Life service and dinner for Paul Ramsey.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, December of 2015

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