Written by: Justin Brett
The Durham Wing is not the only part of the Sault Museum named after a famous individual born here. On the third floor of the Museum is the Russ Ramsay Sports Hall of Fame, chronicling Sault Ste. Marie’s history of teams and athletic feats. But who is Russ Ramsay?
Born locally in 1928, Russ was only twenty when he acquired a job as an announcer with local radio station CJIC-AM, and he did not stop there. Just four years later he had become sports director at the station, a role that put him into close contact with many who played them. There are several images in our collection of him alongside teams such as the Greyhounds and the Collegiate Wildcats. Four years following that, in 1956, he became General Manager of the station itself, which had evolved to TV broadcasts by that point.
This would obviously make him quite a successful person already, but beyond sports Russ also had a desire to enter into politics. His desire took some time to be successful, as attempts to be elected to Parliament were unsuccessful in both 1965 and 1968. He didn’t give up, however, and did eventually find success in the field. This was first through serving as a City Councillor in 1975 for much of that year, and following that, in 1977, he became elected MPP (Member of Provincial Parliament) for the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
Russ proved to be a very popular representative for Sault Ste. Marie. In 1981 he won his re-election by a factor of 14,806 votes, almost doubling his opponents’ combined. He held his position until 1985, and until then also served terms as Provincial Secretary for Resource Development and Minister of Labour. It was only in the following election that he was replaced, losing in a surprise result to Doctor Karl Morin-Strom of the NDP. Many credited a weak liberal vote for the loss, and a gaffe he made in 1982 may have contributed as well, where he expressed hesitation about equal pay in the workplace by implying it could close some companies down.
This was largely the end of his political career, save for an attempted run for Mayor in 1997, but Russ still received accolades outside of it. The Civic Centre’s Algoma Board Room became the Russ Ramsay Room in his honor, and despite never playing the sport professionally was still inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame due to his contributions to the sport. He even received the Order of Ontario in 1993, an award given to those who have shown outstanding qualities of excellence and achievement within the province.
Russ Ramsay passed away in 2003 at the age of 74, leaving behind his wife and five children. Over 500 people attended his funeral, and the Pastor commented that Russ’ motto in life was ‘Strive for Excellence’. Seeing all this written down, I think you may agree he lived up to that motto.