LOGAN, W.Va. — Marjorie Ann Ramsey Oakley of 509 Main Street passed away Jan. 5, 2014, at Logan Regional Medical Center.
Born April 18, 1924 in Huntington, she was the daughter of the late Thomas Allen and Goldia Virginia McClary Ramsey. She was also preceded in death by her husband, the Honorable Judge Harold Harvey Oakley Jr. who passed away Feb. 17, 2006, and with whom she was married for over 38 years.
Ms. Oakley was well-known and admired for her extensive lifelong accomplishments in the field of education, business and music. She likewise held numerous leadership positions in several professional and public service organizations. A graduate of Logan High School, she majored in Home Economics at West Virginia University, earned a Masters degree in 1949 and subsequently did the necessary doctoral studies required for a Ph.D. She even held a faculty position there for an academic year as a Supervisory Teacher of Music and Education at University High School. Her educational advancements, academic expertise as well as an illustrious career reflect a unique understanding of life's challenges and leads one to marvel at her enormous reserve of energy and singleness of purpose in contributing to so many noble causes.
In 1951 while teaching science and music at Logan Junior High School, the former 27 year-old Marjorie Ramsey won a statewide U.S. Defense Department Bond Selling Contest for schoolteachers. She was shepherded on a 3-week tour around Defense Department sites in Europe by the U.S. Department of Treasury War Finance Agency. Lewis Tierney, president of Charleston radio station WCHS and volunteer chairman of the state's bond-selling drive, sponsored the contest and offered to pay full expenses for the winner.
Some of the picturesque highlights of the whirlwind tour regarding the expenditures of defense dollars included visiting Parliament while in London and meeting Lord McIntosh of Halifax. From there Ms. Ramsey flew to Heidelberg, took a jeep to Berlin and was escorted to the Brandenburg Gate by General Mac Daniels. After a brief stop in Zurich, Switzerland, she made her way to Malta by train and from there to Naples, Italy in time to meet Admiral Carney. Her final European flight ended in Paris where she interviewed General Anthony Biddle. Later Ms. Ramsey had separate audiences at the Pentagon with Generals George Marshall and Omar Bradley.
A former Home Economics educator at Marshall University, she subsequently engaged in helping establish the Logan Branch of Marshall University. It later became Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College. In the early years of Marjorie's tenure at Southern, she became assistant to the President and Director of Public Relations. Besides all the formational and technical responsibilities that entailed, she was busy establishing and coordinating all aspects of a nutritional-dietetic technology program. In 1972 she was named Southern West Virginia Community College's representative to the Advisory Council of Faculty, West Virginia Board of Regents and the first woman to be it vice-chair. Ms. Oakley's devotion, loyalty and cumulative performance to the teaching profession set standards worthy of emulation. A high percentage of her students continued their education in other colleges and universities, leading them to assume positions of responsibility in the food service industry.
In 1986 she was honored with the Savas Outstanding Faculty Award at Southern for her supportive role, sensitivity and encouragement to those she taught. Concurrently, the West Virginia Education Association presented her with the Corma A. Mowrey Education Award for demonstrated leadership ability as evidenced by her participation in activities unique and contributory to the advancement of women's rights. After accumulating numerous awards and honors, and acting as a role model for her students, friends and colleagues, her many years of excellence as a practicing Dietician were recognized in 2005 by the West Virginia Dietetics Association, which bestowed upon her the "Outstanding Dietician Award." It was said her reputation embodied the spirit of a person who made life-long commitment to make her world a better place in which to live.
Early in her inventory of successes she ventured out into the business world, first as a WSAZ-TV personality with a Menu Maker Show and then as a public relations spokesperson for the Columbia Gas System. Four years of limelight experience led her to becoming a Public Relations Consultant in 1958 for the Frank M. Wilson Company, an expanding packer of California canned fruits and vegetables. Their offering was marketed under the Nugget label, along with a complete line of other institutional products. She repeatedly traveled from coast to coast while serving as food consultant and liaison between the company and the establishment of a national franchise network of contract brokers and distributors. She was named Executive Vice-President in 1964 and these trailblazing years earned her recognition by the food service industry as the first female to become an officer of an institutional food processing and distribution corporation. Her continuing pace-setting role resulted in Mrs. Oakley being cited and honored as one of 10 "Barrier Breakers" at the opening of the Second Annual Governor's Conference on International Women's/Decade on October 22-23, 1976 at the Daniel Boone Hotel in Charleston.
Closer to home, she built upon the benefits of corporate experience to serve as chairman of the board of the Logan News Corp. which owned a weekly newspaper, the Logan News. All members of the board were women. Then she went on to organize and become president of the Logan Business and Professional Women's Club. These positions of leadership led to her being named West Virginia Woman of the year in 1973. For most of the past 35 years she attended the annual West Virginia State Bankers Convention, in fulfillment of her role as a member of the Board of Directors of Logan Bank and Trust, a strong community bank which her husband founded in 1964.
Besides her expansive and multifaceted career achievements, Ms. Oakley gave generously of her time to numerous civic, professional and religious boards and committees. She was the first woman to become president of the Logan County Planning Commission, served on the Board of Directors of the Logan County Crippled Children's Society, the Logan County Employment Office's WIN Labor Market Advisory Council, the American Red Cross Board, the Board of PRIDE INC., and did publicly for the Arts and Craft Fair, sponsored by the Logan County Chamber of Commerce. Other recognitions of leadership positions include first vice-president of Delta Kappa Gamma, women educators honorary and president of the West Virginia State Bar Auxiliary. She was also a member of Phi Delta Kappa, Kappa Delta Phi and Kappa Omicron Phi, national honoraries.
Listings of personal fulfillments in various Who's Who publications and the confirmation of her speaking expertise led to Marjorie's nomination in 1981 to serve as West Virginia Ambassador of Public Relations by then Secretary of State. She was a recipient of the Earl Ray Tomblin Award for Outstanding Community Services and appointed in 1986 to the West Virginia Advisory Council for Vocational Education. The West Virginia University Davis College of Agriculture Alumni Association selected her to receive one of three coveted Distinguished Alumna Awards granted in 2010. This career capstone added another well-deserved tribute to her legacy of outstanding professional and community successes.
Her musical talents were developed early, and by age 17 she was already into serving from time to time as church organist. With subsequent training, including a summer at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, that responsibility became hers at the First Baptist Church of Logan. Besides playing for weddings and funerals throughout the area, she also gave piano lessons and led the church choir for many years.
Survivors include two stepsons, David (Kathy) Oakley of El Centro, Calif., and Michael Lee Oakley of Kansas City, Kan.; three step-grandchildren, Sara (Brian) Ross of Yuma, Ariz., Bryan (Susan) Oakley of Alexandria, Va., and Jennifer Oakley of Topeka, Kan. Other survivors include 12 great-grandchildren; three nephews, Clinton (Cindi) Winters, Joseph (JoAnn) Wagner and Wally (Nancy) Wagner, and a number of grand-nieces and nephews.
A Celebration of Life service will be held at First Baptist Church of Logan beginning at 1 p.m. Tues., Jan. 14, with Rev. George Kostas, Rev. Tim Barnhouse and Rev. Rex Thompson officiating. Burial will follow in McDonald Family Cemetery at Huff Junction at Man.
Visitation will begin at noon Tuesday at the church.
Pallbearers will be Eddie Joe Canterbury, Gary Wilson, Glenn Yost, Mark Wagner, Tom Fink and Michael Winter.
Honorary pallbearers will be the Board of Directors at Logan Bank and Trust and Larry Bailey.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Southern West Virginia Community & Technical College, Box 2900, Mt. Gay, WV 25637 or the First Baptist Church of Logan, 423 Main Street, Logan, WV 25601.
James Funeral Home of Aracoma is in charge of arrangements.