Philosopher, music and language lover, broadcaster, teacher, father, gentleman. Born Oct. 18, 1931, in Toronto. Died Oct. 12, 2011, in Toronto of advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, aged 79.
When Geoffrey Ramsey finished secondary school at St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ont., the comment in his yearbook was, “Most likely to be a philosopher.” This proved true as he devoted his life to studying and teaching philosophy.
Born in Toronto, Geoffrey was the youngest of three children of Marjorie Mills and Alan Ramsey, who taught at St. Andrew’s College.
Geoffrey spent a year in Denmark (where he’d travelled by boat to follow a girlfriend), and worked in radio in Timmins, Ont., before moving to England in 1956. He studied philosophy at the School of Economic Science in London while working as a director in television, which was just in its infancy. He married his first wife, Frances, and had a daughter, Bridget.
In 1976, Geoffrey returned to Toronto to open a philosophy school. It was not an easy task. Most evenings and weekends were devoted to teaching philosophy, Sanskrit and English language arts to the school’s adult students while still working to support his young second family. He and Melissa married in 1981 and had three children, Michael, Emma and Catherine.
Geoffrey studied the Gita, Upanishads, Plato and other scriptures and philosophers and tried to put what was said into practice in his life. Even in his last months, his support workers were reading Eckhart Tolle to him. Next to his bed were the words “Acceptance, enthusiasm, enjoyment” as a reminder of how to live. Any doctor who asked how he felt would be treated to a dissertation on the state of his mind and being – the body always came last.
Next to philosophy was his love of English. All over the house were heavily used dictionaries covered in duct tape. He hated bad grammar and bad proofing in articles. He spread his love of poetry and prose in a third career when he was semi-retired by going to the junior school his daughters attended to read stories, introduce poetry, teach calligraphy and answer questions from a philosophical point of view. He introduced many children to the large questions in life.
His love of music, and particularly jazz, never left him. He could listen to a jazz record and name the player on each instrument. In his later years, he would drive his family to distraction by associating a song with every word uttered. On those occasions, any serious conversation had to wait.
In his 60s, he learned how to do cryptic crosswords and never looked back. He faithfully completed both the cryptic and quick crosswords from The Globe and Mail until the last months of his illness.
Geoffrey was a gentle, simple man who sought truth and wisdom. This was most apparent in his final days when a great purity and simplicity shone through his illness. We will miss him.
By Melissa Ramsey, Geoffrey’s wife.