Matthew Stuart Ramsey

Matthew Stuart Ramsey

VOORHEESVILLE — Matthew Ramsey was a man with a “wicked sense of humor,” but he was also someone who had deep compassion for others, and will be remembered as “caring,” “loving,” and “generous,” and as an artist whose imagination was “boundless.”

Matthew Stuart Ramsey died on Monday, May 31, 2021, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He was 53.

He lived in Voorheesville most of his life. Mr. Ramsey’s father, Dick Ramsey, was employed by the New York State Office of Mental Health while his mother, Judy Ramsey, worked for the Guilderland Chamber of Commerce and the insurance company BlueCross BlueShield, among others, according to Mr. Ramsey’s sister, Kate. 

“Art was Matt’s passion starting from an early age and throughout his life,” his family wrote in a tribute. He received a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Rhode Island School of Design.

“There was one [story] that I get a kick out of,” said his mother. “When he took, I think, it was earth science in like seventh grade,” she said, his teacher had used an imaginary creature or insect as a classroom tool — a way to “illustrate different points” she wanted to make.

Mrs. Ramsey recalled that the name of the fictitious creature, the teacher’s tool, was Gnagfrad. One day her son came home from school and painted a picture of what he thought Gnagfrad would look like.

Mrs. Ramsey still has the picture because her son’s teacher kept it long after he had been her student. “She gave it to him years later, when she was retiring,” Mrs. Ramsey said of the Gnagfrad painting. “She just loved that he wanted to have a picture of that Gnagfrad to illustrate who it was.”

As parents, “we always loved his art, and admired that he could be an artist,” Mrs. Ramsey said, but it wasn’t until her son’s senior year of high school when one of his art teachers called and said, “He needs to go to a good art school.”

So, “you don’t always know [if] your child really has talent or if it’s just family admiration,” Mrs. Ramsey said, but the confirmation of her son’s talent from his teacher is what led to him applying to the Rhode Island School of Design.

“His art ranged from drawings to sculpture to full-room installations,” Mr. Ramsey’s family wrote.

“Family was extremely important to Matt, and he fiercely loved his close and large extended family,” the tribute to Mr. Ramsey said.

Her brother was six years her elder, Kate Ramsey said. 

Because of the age difference, a year-and-a-half, Mr. Ramsey was closer to his sister Jennifer when the children were younger, Kate Ramsey said.

“In childhood, I do remember just playing with them, and that he was a really fun brother,” Ms. Ramsey recalled, adding with a laugh, “He would always tickle me.”

As adults, Ms. Ramsey said she and her brother became closer. “We’re very good friends,” she said. 

A resident of New York City, Ms. Ramsey said that, when her brother would visit, the pair liked to attend live music events together, recalling in particular the time “we went to a jazz festival in Brooklyn,” adding that music had been a “sort of a shared love for us.”

Ms. Ramsey said she and her brother also like going to New York City museums, especially the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), where Mr. Ramsey had worked for a number of years when he was in his 20s, at the information desk, and where he was just “happy to be there amongst the art.”

Moving back upstate in 2001, Mr. Ramsey continued making his own art, participating in local shows, and became a member of the Upstate Artists Guild.

Music was another of Mr. Ramsey’s passions.

“He was an avid music collector, and although punk rock was his main love, he listened to all kinds of music. He also played music throughout his life and taught himself to play the keyboard and the djembe in the last couple of years,” his family wrote.

Ms. Ramsey said, in particular, her brother’s favorite genre of music was ’70s-era punk, and that her brother had been “fascinated” by “the art, the music, the film, everything that was happening going on in and around New York City, in that time period,” she said. “I think [it] was a huge influence on him.”

Mr. Ramsey’s family wrote that he “cared about the local and broader community,” and “was deeply concerned about the environment, children in need, racial injustice, and humanitarian crises.”

Mr. Ramsey was “moved to tears” by the pictures coming out of Yemen when its government was exiled by religious fundamentalists, which has led to war for the past five years, and turned Yeman into the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, his mother said.

“They don’t have the chance, those kids ... and it just broke his heart,” Mrs. Ramsey said.

In the last year, Ms. Ramsey said that her brother became concerned with the problem of racial injustice, becoming a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Her son made a “huge sign for his lawn,” Mrs. Ramsey said.

Mr. Ramsey created a piece of art every day for a month that was eventually assembled into a larger work that represented “what he wanted to express about the Black Lives Matter movement,” his sister said; the installation was displayed at an art show this past October. 

Ms. Ramsey said her brother was the “best brother ever,” and was someone who was “loving and caring,” and a person whose imagination was “boundless.”

“As a son, he was just perfectly wonderful,” Mrs. Ramsey said, before stating an obvious and universal but rarely offered insight applicable to all people, “He was also human; I mean, we’re not trying to paint him as some saint.”

Mr. Ramsey’s family wrote, “Matt loved animals, especially his pets, and was able to see many kinds of wildlife during a safari trip in Tanzania.” They also wrote that he was an “active member of the Upstate Artists Guild, joined the Albany drum circle, and was a member and president of the New Scotland Kiwanis.” 

“He had a day job to pay the bills,” Ms. Ramsey said of her brother, who worked for the state’s Office of Mental Health.

“But he did his art continuously,” she said, “on the side.”

With so many people finding their identity in their jobs, Ms. Ramsey said that she and her family discussed whether to even include her brother’s profession in his obituary, which was ultimately the choice made for obituaries of Mr. Ramsey published elsewhere. 

“We debated it,” Ms. Ramsey said of her family’s decision, “and we felt like it didn’t define him at all. It was what he did to get a paycheck.”

There were times her brother liked his job, she said, and he certainly liked many of the people with whom he worked, but it “didn’t define him in any way.”

Mr. Ramsey’s mother said she received a call on Tuesday from one of her son’s former co-workers, someone with whom he hadn’t worked for some time, “and she talked about how he was a gentleman, and he was gentle, and he had a good sense of humor.”

Some people have said her son had a “wicked sense of humor,” Mrs. Ramsey said, adding that her son was also a “quiet person in some ways,” but that he loved to be with people and share and laugh and trade ideas.

Mr. Ramsey was also “just so caring and generous,” his sister said that, during the pandemic, he wanted to show his appreciation for the frontline grocery-store workers, so he bought gift cards and handed them out as thank-yous. 

****

Matthew Stuart Ramsey “was the son of Dick and Judy Ramsey; brother to Jennifer and Roger Rennels and Kate Ramsey; and uncle to Martina and Dylan Rennels,” his family wrote. 

A gathering to celebrate him will be held on Sunday, June 27, from 2 to 5 p.m., at Indian Ladder Farms on Route 156 in New Scotland.

“If you would like to make a donation in Matt’s memory,” his family wrote, “he supported Black Lives Matter, the International Rescue Committee, and the World Wildlife Fund.”

Memorial messages may be left at www.altamontenterprise.com/milestones.

— Sean Mulkerrin

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