Sophie Ramseyer, 92, owner of driving range in Balto. Co.

May 05, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Sophie Ramseyer, who owned and operated a Rossville driving range even though she never swung a golf club, died of respiratory failure Sunday at the Oak Crest Village retirement community, her home for the past seven years. She was 92.

Born Sophie Schultz on a Baltimore County farm near the Stemmers Run area, she attended the public one-room Orems School until age 13. She then studied at Strayer's Business College in Baltimore.

Family members said she accompanied her mother Thursday mornings to the Broadway Market in Fells Point. They rose in the middle of the night because the trip took more than three hours. She helped load the wagon with fresh vegetables, eggs and live chickens they sold at the open-air market. She spent the night with city relatives and returned to the farm late Saturdays.

Mrs. Ramseyer was in her teens when she took a job in the printing department of the old Crosse & Blackwell plant on Eastern Avenue shortly after the food business opened in the 1920s. During World War II, she worked for Eastern Aircraft in the General Motors plant on Broening Highway, which had been converted to airplane construction.

After the war, she returned to Crosse & Blackwell until retiring in 1966. That year, her two sons urged her and her husband, Nicklaus Ramseyer, whom she married in 1956, to build a golf driving range on his old family property that was known as the Swiss Dairy Farm. Her husband, an Armco machinist, had recently retired.

"They were looking for a business opportunity, and when we suggested they open a golf range, they thought us crazy," said son Andrew McDonald of Bel Air. "My mother said, `You mean people will pay to hit one of those golfs?"

The couple took the suggestion and cut down an old orchard. Baltimore County was enlarging Rossville Boulevard, which went through their property, and road graders provided fill dirt for the project.

When the Cedar Lane Golf Range opened in 1967, Mrs. Ramseyer worked the booth and rented buckets of golf balls from March through October. She also supervised as many as 12 employees.

"She herself never touched a golf club. She also had no interest in the game, despite the immediate success of her venture. She never played golf nor hit a ball at the range," said her son.

She operated the range for 18 years, including for two years after her husband's death in 1984. Her sons then operated the property until 1998, when it was sold for a real estate development known as Cedar Lane Homes.

"She was really more of a farm girl, a very hard worker," her son said. "She loved to garden - flowers and vegetables - and collected antiques. The patrons at the driving range often left with a big bag of tomatoes, corn and squash she'd given them. She had a wonderful garden she tended until she was 85."

Mrs. Ramseyer also enjoyed making sour beef and dumplings and chicken pot pie from old family recipes.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Lassahn Funeral Home, 7401 Belair Road, Overlea.

She is also survived by another son, Harry K. McDonald of Dataw Island, S.C.; six grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren. A previous marriage ended in divorce.

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