Tag Archives: T. J. Ramey

Steve Falters on Dermatology, Kids Contract Chicken Pox

Steve Wearing Laurel Wreath at Medical School Graduation, 1974, courtesy of Marcia Duncan

Steve Wearing Laurel Wreath at Medical School Graduation, 1974, Harley Smith and Marcia Duncan also pictured, courtesy of Marcia Duncan

All his exams were oral and his graduation was also a combination of a—he had to represent his dissertation to a panel of medical doctors. And you could invite all your friends to come. Uncle Harley came over from France for his graduation.

So he sits at a table with this horseshoe of professors and he has to answer questions on his dissertation. Then they pronounced him with his medical degree. Then friends of ours brought a big laurel wreath, Italian friends, and put it around him. We probably have some pictures with us.

[Heidi]: Then they kicked him out of medical school.

Steve Being Booted Out of Medical School, 1974

Steve Being Booted Out of Medical School, 1974

Yes, that’s right. They had a tradition of all your friends line up in two rows and you run down between them and they kick you out of medical school.

Dawn, actually, was about three then, three and a half, and Heidi had just been born. Heidi was supposed to be born after he finished his final exams, but Heidi came a few days early. Heidi was born at something like, what, two o’clock in the morning? Then he had, that morning, he had—was it a pharmacology exam?

[Steve]: Dermatology.

A dermatology exam. So he walks into his examination and the professor asked him, “What happened to you?” because he’d been up most of the night. He said, “I just had a baby!”

Heidi was—basically we had to wait a month before we could fly home, in terms of her age.

We went home via France to visit Harley and Betty one more time.

[Dawn]: We got to stay there extra long.

We got to stay there extra long because one morning we woke up and Dawn had a pock on her face. Lo and behold, she had broken out with chicken pox, so we had to wait until she was no longer contagious before we could get on the flight.

[Stephanie]: Way to go, Dawn.

[TJ]: You all know that you’re eligible for shingles later on?

[Dawn]: I know it. My mother-in-law. . . .

[Stephanie]: Looking forward to it.

[TJ]: Patti had shingles and before it she had chicken pox. When she did, they kept me away from them. I didn’t have chicken pox.

[Victoria]: Maybe you did.

[Virginia?]: I never have had any.

Heidi, at a month old, eventually had one little pock on her face, so I don’t know if that means she had chicken pox or not. Kimberly and Stephanie got it in [Ben Lippen] high school.

[Stephanie]: Our junior year. We both came down with the chicken pox.

[Virginia?]: Ohhhhh. At the same time, huh?

[Stephanie]: Well, we had house-parents and their kids had chicken pox. I babysat for them. I think that’s how it all went down. It’s a little confusing because there were a bunch of people who came down at the same time with it. I was babysitting for them. Also a friend of mine. It was going around the school. It was the only thing I ever came down with in high school. I never even had a cold all through the years we were there. But it came through this particular set of house parents and their children. A bunch of us got it at the same time, but it was right before our final exams our junior year. I just remember that because I was in agony trying to study and we got it bad.

story told by Marcia (Steve’s wife) to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014 with interjections from Steve, Dawn, Heidi, and Stephanie (Steve’s daughters), Virginia Gorman (Lee’s daughter), TJ Ramey (Kathryn’s son), and Victoria his wife; transcribed by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter)

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • Any other Smith and Steve Duncan family stories from the “extra long” stay in France?
  • Anyone else have chicken pox or other childhood/epidemic diseases stories?
  • Any other stories from the trip home?
  • Mom and Dad/Marcia and Steve, can you send digital copies of the laurel wreath and kicking out photos for this story? Thanks.

The Legend of Steve

Steve Kilted, n. d., courtesy of Colin Duncan

Steve Kilted, n. d., courtesy of Colin Duncan

I’ve always been proud and I’ve told friends of mine, particularly guys in the Lodge, because—a lot of you don’t know I’m a Mason and I’m an instructor in Masonic work. Every once in a while, I get a new guy who comes in and I instruct him in his work. And sometime they start bellyaching about how hard it is, how long it takes for them to memorize stuff and all that.

I say “Let me tell you a story about a relative of mine, who tried to get in medical school in the States and he had too many Bs on his grade card.” This is the story I heard. Anyway, “but he was accepted by a medical school in Italy. The only trouble is he didn’t speak Italian. So he went over there and learned enough Italian, had a tutor to help him, and went through four years of med school. He graduated, got his license, came back to the States and took his boards, and got a license here, and became a medical missionary in Africa.” And I said, “If he could do all that, surely you can learn this work.”


[Kathy]: There you go! The story of Uncle Steve.

story told by T. J. Ramey [Kathryn’s son] to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014; recorded and transcribed by Dawn [Steve’s daughter]

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • Dad, you tell us the story now. Let’s hear it in your words.
  • Anyone else have a family story that got a little lofty or mangled in the re-telling? Tell us the story. How did you discover the “legend”? How was it different from your experience or your hearing of the story?

Music, Language, and the Inventive Streak

Betty, Taylor, Virginia, Wally, Harley perhaps, 06.12.1965, courtesy of Colin DuncanThe music that we see in Jules or in T.J., the music comes through Dad, I think. My mother really wasn’t musical at all.

[Marcia]: But she, the inventive streak that so many of you have must have come through her side of the family because wasn’t it her, one of her relatives that invented the coupler for the train cars?

Yes. I think it was Choate.

[Marcia]: Choate.

It was a Choate who invented the. . . . I think it was Choate. He never was able to patent it, but he saw that the trains were held together by chains when he was a young kid. And he would sit by the trains as they were going by and often they would break. He invented that and never got it patented.

There’s Virginia Lee [showing picture].

We were told by my mother and she had gotten it by. . . .

[Heidi]: I’m going to tell my kids I invented Post-It Notes. [Laughter] It got stolen from me.

[T.J.]: People with magical minds, much like Grandpa had, your father, many of them are also musically inclined.


[Heidi]: And linguistically inclined.

If we get a chance tomorrow and we go by a piano, we can maybe get him to sit down and just play a little bit of Beethoven. The last time. . . .

[Kathy]: I wish we still had a piano here.

[Eric]: The Townsend Building has one.

There’s a piano and we can just sit down and let him. He hasn’t done it in a year, but he is . . . I’m very proud to be related to this guy. And he’s very skilled in the piano.

story told by Steve to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014; recorded and transcribed by Dawn [Steve’s daughter]; see also William Choate Gets No Credit for His Coupler Design

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • What do you remember of Mother/Grandma/Virginia’s musical ability?
  • Steve/Dad, can you tell the story of Grandma taking apart the piano because it was out of tune?
  • Did Grandpa Taylor play an instrument? Did he sing in the choir? At home?

T. J. Ramey Tells His Family History

I am T. J. Ramey. I am Kathryn’s youngest son. And the T. J. stands for Taylor Jules. Of course Taylor was after my grandfather Taylor A. Duncan. Jules was a compromise between my mother and my father. I didn’t think too much of it, but anyway I got stuck with it. K?

TJ Playing the Moonlight Sonata in the JAARS ChapelVictoria, my wife, and I, we’re living at San Antonio, Texas. I retired from Montsanto Company after 29 years. I kick around a little bit on the piano when I have an opportunity, which I haven’t in the last year, just about.

For some time I was building Appalachian Mountain dulcimers. I was taught by a master dulcimer-maker by the name of Robert Mize. At the time of his death, he had instruments in 35 foreign countries and one in the Smithsonian Institute. I have just about retired from building dulcimers. In fact I’m going to be selling the equipment that I have in my shop because I have my house in Canyon Lake up for sale right now.

I’ll let Victoria tell you about herself except I will say Victoria lost her husband of 46 years marriage very suddenly. And that was approximately six months before I lost Rene very suddenly. Neither one of us thought we would ever marry again. We both became involved in a grief-share program at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio. John Hagee is the minister. We firmly believe that the Lord Jesus Christ brought us together. We have no doubt whatsoever of that fact. We’ve been married now for a year and three months [Jan 2014], is that right?


We are very, very happy. We have a very good time. I don’t know Spanish. Sometimes she doesn’t know English. But she does much better at English than I do at Spanish. So sometime we have a little miscommunication. We have to stop and figure out what we’re talking about.

Sister Patty. Brother Jim passed away in ‘95. He was 66 years of age. Walter—James Walter but everybody called him Jim. He was the smart one in the family. He had the PhDs, several, from Columbia. He was 66. He was born in ’28, I know that, but I don’t know the month or the day. Patty is February 17th and she was born, what, six years before me or five years after Jim because there’s 11 years difference between the two of us. And she’s 80 now. Well, I say she’s 80. She’ll turn 80 next month. She’s married to Butch Levien, has been for 25 years. No, more than that.

[Victoria]: She’s a lovely person and she said that she’d like to be here, but because of the condition of her husband, she cannot do it. He’s 89. They are always happy. You can see their smile in their face all the time. He is adorable and she is an angel.

Butch is a World War II veteran. He marched, at one time when the Third Army and his outfit joined Patton on the assault, on the attack on Germany, he was with Patton then. He said he was quite a guy.

J. A. [stood for] Jewel Atwood. He was J-e-w-e-l and he did not want Mother to give me that name. He said he never did like it. That’s where they compromised and came up with Jules. I thought that was worse.

I have a son Douglas and he is 49. And I have a daughter Pamala who is 53. Pamela has two kids. The boy is Tony and the girl is Lori Beth. Tony has two and Lori Beth has three. They’re in Houston. I don’t see them that often.

I do not remember meeting Birdie [Taylor’s first wife; T. J.’s grandmother], but I’m sure that I did. I was, I know, very small at the time. I remember going out and spending a couple of days with Will Reader, who I think was her second or third husband. She was married to a Fisher after Grandpa and I don’t know which one was second and which one was third. But I remember going out there as a kid and spending a couple of days with Grandpa Reader. I remember that I slept in a big ole bed in the same room with him. And I woke up in the middle of the night. He had taken off a white dress shirt and he hung it on the bedpost. I woke up in the middle of the night and it scared me to death. I thought it was a ghost. That’s funny how you remember things like that. I do not remember being around Birdie. I’m sure I was. I just don’t remember it.

That was somewhere out in the area of Fern Creek. Out in the country. Out in the sticks. Fern Creek, Kentucky. [Speaking to Victoria]: By listening to me, they know I was born and raised in Kentucky.

story told by T. J. Ramey to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014; recorded and transcribed by Dawn [Steve’s daughter]

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.).

  •          Do you recall other stories of Birdie with Taylor, Fisher, or Reader? Do you remember other visits to her/them?
  •          Do you recall other stories of Kathryn and J. A.?
  •          Can you share other stories of Kathryn interacting with her mother and/or father?
  •          Can you tell us other stories of Kathryn’s brother Paul?
  •          What else can you recall of Fern Creek, Kentucky?