Death of Monroe correctional officer in crash stuns friends, family

  • Tue Feb 23rd, 2010 5:14pm
  • News

By Andy Rathbun Herald Writer

SULTAN — Bruce Ramsey’s co-workers brought shovels and flowers to his highway-side memorial service on Thursday afternoon.

A few correctional officers knelt in the dirt, still wearing their uniforms from the Monroe Correctional Complex, and planted the flowers in the shape of a cross.

About 60 people watched. Some cried. Others embraced.

“The more we love someone, the more it hurts,” said Linda Haptonstall, a prison chaplain. “And the amount of hurting here says the amount of love was very great and very deep.”

Ramsey, 47, was killed Wednesday afternoon in an accident on U.S. 2. He was riding his motorcycle when a Honda sedan pulled out at Rice Road, Snohomish County sheriff’s spokeswoman Rebecca Hover said.

Friends and family at the memorial were shocked he died in a motorcycle accident.

His mother, Gloria Wolter, said Ramsey would unwind after work with a short ride on nice days. She said her son never sped and always wore a helmet.

“He was such a careful biker,” she said.

The longtime correctional officer was remembered by friends and family as a rock — a big man who earned the nickname “Rammer.”

Ramsey grew up in Sultan before beginning a 25-year career at the Monroe prison, rising to the rank of lieutenant. He was named supervisor of the year at the complex in 2007, according to the state Department of Corrections.

Fellow correctional officers felt secure when Ramsey was on duty.

Officer Bruce Paggi served under Ramsey at the prison’s Washington State Reformatory Unit. Paggi recalled a major disturbance in 2008, when Ramsey was in charge.

“He helped us get in there quickly and handcuff about 18 people in under two minutes without any staff injuries,” Paggi said. “His presence really helped us.”

Ramsey was also a family man. He returned last week from a trip to Arizona where he visited his mother and his stepfather, John Wolter.

His parents flew in Thursday for the memorial service. They joined Ramsey’s wife, Kelly Ramsey; his daughter, Jennifer Ramsey, 11; and his son, Michael Ramsey, 19.

“He was a great father,” his daughter said. “I’ll miss him forever.”

The family plans to hold a second memorial service at a yet-to-be-determined date.

The accident that killed Ramsey occurred about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, when a car driven by a 16-year-old girl pulled in front of him, Hover said.

Neither the driver nor her passenger, a 17-year-old boy, were injured. No citations have been issued in the ongoing investigation, Hover said.

The accident had Sultan residents talking about safety along U.S. 2.

Ramsey’s death marks the 53rd fatality on the highway between Snohomish and Stevens Pass since 1999.* The last fatality occurred after a woman walked into traffic on Aug. 27 in Gold Bar.

A stoplight has been planned for decades at the intersection where Ramsey died, Sultan city administrator Deborah Knight said.

Work on the $1.4 million project may begin after the city finishes construction on the highway’s intersection with Sultan Basin Road.

Andy Rathbun: 425-339-3455, arathbun@heraldnet.com.

*Correction, Feb. 23, 2010: This article originally omitted a pedestrian’s death from the total number of traffic fatalities on U.S. 2 since 1999.