Susan Was Special….
In mid-August, Susan Ormiston Jaramillo came from her home in Denver to once again play at the Nekoma Presbyterian Church which was closing that weekend. Friends and family had not known how ill she was at the time, but returning to Denver, she entered the hospital and then hospice. As the news of her death a short time later circulated, person after person told me “Susan was special”, and she had seemed that way to me as well. In her memory I set out to think about her life growing up in North Dakota that had left such a lasting impression. Families, of course, tend to see their relatives as special, but even people who knew Susan only briefly still called her special.
So, I thought about her years of going to school in North Dakota and looked for her LHS class yearbook which was one of several that does not happen to be in the collection at the library. I knew she had been a cheerleader and very musical so must have been in the choir or band or both. Honor students are often mentioned in the clipping file located in the same room as the yearbook collection, and I did already know that Susan had been an honor student in one of the largest classes to ever graduate from Langdon High School. The clipping file opened the door to a much larger story since it had a story and picture of Susan Ormiston and Dwight Towler, who had been chosen as the Outstanding Boy and Girl from the class of 1978. In the picture both were holding their own trophies, and the story included a listing of previous graduates who had that same honor. That story seemed very familiar since Susan was the daughter of Alan and Jo Ormiston and Dwight was the son of Rev. and Mrs. Towler who had served our church for several years. The other names on the outstanding list were also familiar - people we all might have known years ago.
With that information, you now know two of the many names that have received the outstanding honor trophies, so the obvious step would be to locate the listing which began in 1952 and continues to the present time. Knowing some of the early names led to earlier stories with the history of some of the earliest recipients and the original trophy. However, the focus this week was Susan so will begin with parts of her story. Susan was ready to start school in the 1960s when the Fairdale district closed. Her parents had to consider the surrounding (pre-missile era) towns and found a kindergarten class at Edmore. Langdon students did not yet have access to kindergarten, so Susan began at Edmore and transferred later to Langdon where I am told she wanted to learn as much as she could, even taking extra classes over noon hour. Those were the days before students could add to their credits by online classes.
Music was a family priority as her mother played for church year after year and gave music lessons. However, Susan as a performer is actually how I met her. She came home to visit often and would show up at church to play for services or to accompany special music. When the pastors at our church began serving the church at Nekoma, they would tell us about Susan and her additions to the services. She came one Christmas with special music, and I was delighted to sit and listen. Following high school Susan went to UND for her nursing career and later went to work in large Denver hospitals in emergency, ICU, and other capacities. Along with her husband, Tom, they made Denver their home and have grown children and recently a new granddaughter joined the family. When her mother’s illness needed full-time care, the family here looked forward to Susan flying home for long weekends to help with her care. Susan was still employed full-time until her entry into the hospital in August and is missed by family, friends and most who knew her and considered her special.
Dwight went on to Concordia the year they graduated, and because I did know his parents who retired to Minnesota, I believe he also had a medical profession but do not know the details.
Reading through the available list of names at the time Susan and Dwight received their outstanding awards was inspiring because the people named were familiar from long ago or younger people now just starting their careers who show great promise for the future. While searching for the complete list, this week I will just list the first person who received the award and some of the information from the clipping file about his life and the award.
As it happened John Brooks, a member of the LHS class of 1953, was killed in a hunting accident in the spring of 1952. His parents wanted to set up a memorial in his name, and it is my understanding the school administration at that time hoped this could be a permanent award to a special student. In the beginning it was to go to one boy from the graduating class who was an all-around student and had been enrolled for all four years of high school. The outstanding portion must be in character, personality, leadership, scholarship, and citizenship. In other words, the one chosen might not be the best in a specific sport or have the highest grade point average – he had to have a variety of skills. Some who would later be chosen specialized in music, sports, or were just plain nice people who seemed to be able to work with anyone.
Another clipping tells that the first trophy was purchased by the Letterman’s Club and would have room for 13 names. The Class of 1952 raised money to purchase a trophy case that would hold this trophy and remain at the school, which at that time was in a different building than exists today. There may have been subsequent later trophies because the recipients do receive one they can take home, and the first trophy had limited space for names.
The first recipient was chosen and received his award in the fall of 1952 although he had graduated with the class of 1952. That student was Dale Ramage, son of Gordon and Rhetta Ramage. Dale had an illness which had sent him to the hospital often during his young life, and in the words of his obituary in 1957 - “thwarted his plans at various times in his life”. In 1952 diseases were not mentioned by name but having known Dale from pre-school on, I do know that he had a disease that later would be named Juvenile Diabetes, and his death at an early age was due to complications encountered in the pre-insulin era. He was actually the only child I knew in 12 years at Langdon that had this particular disease, and his friends learned about it from his never-give-up attitude. As a result, he became a popular young man whose friends packed the church for his funeral. That the faculty chose him as the first for this award was a testimony to his faith and lifestyle. When not hospitalized in later years, he worked at the National Tea Food store. Some of his friends and pall bearers are still in our community, now in their 80s and enjoying their grandchildren.
A former teacher had suggested that I look in the annuals for the missing names from the Outstanding Boy and Girl lists (girls were added in 1964), and year after year there would be no listings at all, either in the available annuals or the clipping file. Please feel free to call me if you remember the ones who received the award when you graduated because it is possible you might just happen to have a missing yearbook.
For the last two or three months I have been receiving scam calls which might be targeting older people. The speakers appear to be foreign sounding voices, and the first call informed me that I had a received a certified check and not cashed it. When I asked who was calling, they gave a bank name. To date there have been about twenty different banks named if I do not hang up immediately. Many of the calls are related to sweepstakes they wish to tell me I have won. No, I am not a sweepstake fan. Yes, I did report them early on to both the police and the bank. Those offices did tell me this is a common scam. Unless you have caller ID and are willing to stay on the line long enough to find a pen and write down the number, there would be nothing they could do to trace the call. They advised to hang up immediately. The reason I am writing about this is that the callers often redial and let the phone ring many times. Some scammers leave messages on answering machines as well. It is better to check on the caller than to return these calls.