Shirley Alice Petersen Ramsay (1929-2013) Life History
Contributor: 8diggin Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago
Shirley Alice Petersen was born on June 9, 1929. She was born on her older sister, Nan's, birthday. They didn't like having the same birthday when they were children, but they enjoyed sharing a birthday when they were adults.
Shirley's father, Viggo Frode Morten Petersen, was a skilled Danish brick mason. He was born in South Africa while his father was working there after the Boar War. They moved to America and settled in Nevada.
Shirley's mother, Mary Alice Kemp Petersen, was born in Idaho with pioneer ancestors who crossed the plains in wagons and handcarts.
Shirley was raised most of her life in Reno, Nevada, except for two years during World War II when they lived in San Francisco near Haight/Ashbury Street before the hippies got there.
As a child she was quite a "Tomboy". She loved to climb trees and hang by her feet upside down. She loved going fishing with her father. He would often take her fishing in the Truckee River, which ran through Reno.
Being born in 1929 at the beginning of the depression, they didn't have much money. She remembered many times getting bananas to eat that dropped off on the loading docks.
She enjoyed going to the movies. They cost five cents for a "double feature" when she was a child so they went to lots of movies during the depression.
The song, "In Our Lovely Deseret" was special to Shirley. Her grandmother, Elizabeth Slater Kemp, sang it to her when she was a little girl. She said that was her spiritual training in the gospel, because when she was young her father wasn't a member of the Church and her mother wasn't very active. Shirley started attending church regularly when she was a teenager. She was determined to live the gospel and marry a worthy priesthood holder in the Temple. She didn't want to be like many of the people around her in Reno.
While in high school, she worked at Montgomery Ward in the clothing department during the summer and in the toy department during the Christmas season. That is where she learned to wrap Christmas presents so pretty. She also worked other jobs as a bookkeeper, mother's helper, and assistant housekeeper.
Shirley graduated from high school two days before her 18th birthday and then moved out and got a full-time job.
Shirley was the first one in her family to go to college. She went to Brigham Young University where she met Clarence Ramsay.
Shirley was a pretty feisty girl. The other girls were falling all over Clarence because he was so handsome and he had a truck when almost nobody else had cars right after World War II. But Shirley was different. One day Shirley was standing in chow line at BYU with Seth Owens, one of Clarence's friends from Snowflake. Clarence came up and said, "Well good, you saved me a place in line. I don't have to go to the end of the line." And Shirley said, "You can't come in here in the middle of the line. That's not fair; you go to the end of the line." So he did. They double dated to a ball game in Clarence's pickup (Seth and Shirley; Clarence and another girl). Clarence kept calling Shirley "Seth's girl," but she stomped her foot and said, "Don't call me Seth's girl, I'm nobody's girl. I'm me, and I'm nobody's girl!" Clarence said, "All right then, if you're not Seth's girl will you go on a date with me?" And the rest is history!
Clarence and Shirley were married in the Manti Temple on Wednesday, April 7, 1948, right after General Conference. They went on a honeymoon to the Grand Canyon, temples in St. George and Mesa, and visited Clarence's family in Arizona. They settled in Monticello, Utah where Clarence had a farm at the end of Boulder Road, east of Monticello.
In those days it was the custom for the local boys to have some fun and shivaree newlyweds by kidnapping the bride. Shirley didn't like that idea and didn't cooperate when they tried it with her. After the guys took Clarence away, Shirley talked the boys who had her into walking back to town and hiding when they came looking for them to scare them and pay them back. Clarence was worried that she really was kidnapped.
Moving to Monticello as a newlywed was a big change for Shirley from the excitement and comforts of the big city of Reno to the isolation of living out at the farm. The first summer they lived together out on Boulder Road east of town in a tiny little one-room cabin Alfred Frost had moved out from the old uranium mill in Monticello. They had an out-house and no running water or electricity. Clarence was working on the farm and Shirley was home alone a lot. She kept busy learning to do crocheting and making a layette for the baby they were soon expecting. Her family is so grateful for the journals she wrote as much as she had time for.
Shirley knew how to take care of babies. She loved her babies and always kept them clean and well fed. The playpen was always clean even if she couldn't keep up with the rest of the house as she had more children.
Shirley and Clarence had 10 children, 45 grandchildren, and 62 great grand children. But she also worked helping Clarence on the farm. She spent many, many hours driving the tractor.
She enjoyed reading, movies, and listening to music. Gene Autry and Jim Reeves were two of her favorites. She had a collection of the old Tarzan books.
She loved dogs. They had lots of dogs through the years.
Because of Shirley they did family activities that built love and family memories. They went Easter egg hunting every year, going to Montezuma Canyon, out to the farm, or to Dry Valley for a fun family picnic. They took a special trip to Reno in the camper Clarence built for the pickup. Another time they took the kids to Disneyland. Shirley had fun taking the kids fishing up the mountain. Shirley worked with them too. They remember hours with her hoeing beans, driving tractor, and driving truck. She would do it all. She ran their egg business, gathering, candling, sorting, packing, and delivering eggs to the grocery stores in town. People would line up to get Ramsay eggs, they were so good.
Shirley had a special talent with cattle raising, keeping track of each cow, bull, and calf on the computer by number, heredity, and description. She knew their numbers and personalities, and named some of the cows. She carried her list and knew the genealogy of all her cows, and they built up a superior herd.
She continued her education earning an Associate of Arts Degree from the College of Eastern Utah in Psychology and Social Work. She studied hard, got A's and was the valedictorian speaker.
She earned her Real Estate license and was successful in selling real estate in Monticello and Blanding. She was always very honest with real estate and gave people better than good deals.
She is a very intelligent and caring person. She used her brains to help with the farm and family finances. She designed the new house Clarence built with many innovative and practical features. Shirley was quietly generous. She didn't have a lot, but she shared with others. She gave to others many times unnoticed.
Shirley has a strong testimony of the gospel. She lived her religion. When she learned of food storage she got it. She always felt the importance of obeying the prophet. Missionary work was important to her. Clarence and Shirley supported five sons on missions. They also helped support many grandsons, granddaughters, relatives, and friends. In addition to monetary support while someone was out on a mission, they had a generous system of giving a "missionary calf" when the missionary went out, which would grow to be a cow with a calf by the time they came home. Through the years they probably gave away a huge herd of missionary cows. Clarence and Shirley spent a year on a full time couples mission working at church visitors centers in the St. George area.
She has done a lot of genealogy and temple work throughout her years. She loved genealogy work so much that she was willing to pay a professional genealogist to do research overseas and in the Danish language.
She was proud of her Petersen heritage. She would always talk about the "Petersen chin" and that was the first thing she would look for in every new baby to see if it had the dimple in their chin. When she was able to go to Denmark with Jason, Lori, and Carol, they went to the family farm and they let them see inside of the house and eat their strawberries. Shirley really enjoyed getting back to her Danish roots. She was so thrilled when her granddaughter went to Denmark on a mission.
Shirley had beautiful, careful penmanship. The family pictures with her artistic handwriting on the back are real treasures. Her greatest treasure is her family. She loves her family totally and unconditionally.They always knew they were loved. And she delighted in the grandchildren and great grandchildren as they came along.
When Aleta was writing their family history book she asked Shirley what counsel she would give to her children. Shirley said, "Get along with your brothers and sisters. Don't fight."
Clarence and Shirley were married for 65 years. That is a lot of years to be taking care of each other. It was special watching how sweet and tender they were taking care of each other at home and in hospitals, when Clarence was in the hospital with a heart attack, and when Shirley was in the hospital with her first stroke and again with the last stroke.
Memories of Grandma Kemp by Shirley Petersen Ramsay
Contributor: 8diggin Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago
From missionary farewell talk by Shirley Ramsay, April 30, 1989:
Brothers and sisters, I've been thinking about all the reasons that I have for standing here. I wanted to mention one in particular. There's been previous talks that you've heard about influence. How we influence others for good or for evil. And hopefully we can be the ones to influence for good. I want to mention one special person that was an influence for good in my life. It was my grandmother, Elizabeth Ellen Slater Kemp. Grandma was already 63 years old before I was even born. Mother was the tenth of her children. I couldn't even go to her funeral. I had just had a new baby, only two months old, my fourth, and we could not even go to the funeral. Even though she lived to be 89, I often wondered how she managed to live to be it seemed so old to me then. Now I often wonder how she managed to live to be that age, especially in reading her history, she was in very poor health. And as a child they didn't even expect her to live and grow up, let alone be a mother of ten children and not die until she was 89. But I feel now, looking back, that she had a special purpose to stay here on this life to help one of her grandchildren get to this point in life. My first memories of my Grandmother Kemp was as she was our babysitter, especially mine. That was because I was such a contrary child my mother couldn't get any other babysitters, and I always disagreed with everybody. If I wasn't disagreeing, I was arguing with everybody, about everything. Except Grandma Kemp! I couldn't argue with my Grandma Kemp, because she was always singing to me or reading poems, or telling stories. Many of the poems she wrote herself. I remember in grade school, I had to walk about ten, twelve blocks or about a mile, and Grandma lived three more blocks, about six more blocks there and back, going the other way. My mother always wondered how come I dawdled so much on the way home from school. That was because I took a detour and went to see Grandma. I was after some of her fresh home-made hot bread and her fried potatoes, and also after her poems and songs, and her attention which she freely gave. I even had a sense of guilt though as a child, and I realize now as an adult, that I was in stopping by so often, I was literally taking the food out of her mouth. She was very poor and she lived with my widowed aunt, Nellie. They had no means of support. They had no old-age assistance then, and they could only live on what little bit could be given them by their children, who were not very well off either. But even more than the hot bread and fried potatoes, my grandmother fed the spirit of her grandchild. She lived in a very modest home, some unkind people called it a shanty or even a shack. But to me that was a piece of heaven there at Grandma's. We sang one of my favorite songs on page 307 today, "In Our Lovely Deseret", and that was one of the songs I begged Grandma to sing to me quite often. And that was my gospel, because we didn't go to church, and I didn't have the opportunity for primary. Very few primary lessons in growing up, very little church attendance. So this was my gospel, and it helped me a great deal with childhood, and especially in my teenage years. Yes, Justin, believe it or not, Grandma was a teenager once. And I had much the same problems as teenagers do now, choices to make. But Grandma's voice and the words to this song would go through my head, especially the verse, "Tea and coffee and tobacco they despise, drink no liquor, and they eat, but a very little meat. They are seeking to be great and good and wise." That would somehow come into my head when I was tempted or pressed upon by my group that I was running around with, because that group was the kind that wanted to... Smoking was the thing, and drinking, especially whiskey, was the "in" thing for my group and my age growing up at that time. So I clung to this and my Grandmother's voice and these words to say no. Grandma's voice wasn't very strong for singing, and you wouldn't really call it a singer's voice, but to my child's ear, it was sweet and beautiful. As I said, she was in poor health, and she had very few clothes, and she didn't attend much church. She lived on farms most of her life. Even when she moved in to Reno, Nevada we didn't have much of a church meeting. The story is told that at that time there were only six priesthood holders in the whole city of Reno, and our meetings were held in the basement of a theater. So it wasn't until later on, quite late in my teenage years, that I even had much church attendance. Grandma gave me the attention that I needed at that particular time. As I said, she was my babysitter, and she was always getting the old tub out to first give me a good bath and then brush my hair. Being poor she had no curlers. She would make curlers out of rags and paper. She would twist the hair on the rags and paper and tie the end. But she wanted us to look our best. She gave us a lot of love and caring. And in that respect my grandmother was a successful influence for good. Thank you, Grandma Kemp.
In conclusion, I would like to read a poem she wrote. As near as I can figure, she was already in her 70's when she wrote this. It's "To My Dearest Children, One and All"
My children dear, when I am gone
You need not weep for me
For I'll be sailing higher on
Not o'er a dangerous sea.
My greatest hope is this, dear ones
That you'll learn the gospel truth,
A flower that buds in childhood
And blossoms while in youth.
Believe me dears there is a God
Who protects us day and night.
If you'll only put your trust in Him
He'll lead by Heavenly light.
God made this earth for us a school
That we may learn His ways
And graduate to a higher class.
Then blessings will crown our days.
May each of you, my precious ones
Remember what I've taught,
That you may lead an honest life
Whatever be your lot.
Then you need not fear the one
Who rules with an iron rod,
If you will do as Jesus taught.
Obey the will of God.
I hope that we may all be able to stand here some day, she died in 1955, 33 years ago, and still have somebody say of us, after 33 years, that we had been a good influence in their lives. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
July 16, 1970 Ramsay Family
Contributor: 8diggin Created: 2 years ago Updated: 2 years ago
Our whole family (except Kevin, who was on a mission) got all dressed up and went down to the Church to have our family picture taken for our ward yearbook. It was a fundraiser for a new organ for the chapel. Shirley held Kevin's senior picture in her lap. We were all wearing copper bracelets from Arizona. They were supposed to guard against arthritis, but they turned our wrists green.