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Helen Gerber Ramsdell

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Joined: May 16 2008
Location: Middletown, Ohi
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    Posted: Dec 24 2014 at 3:59pm

Posted: 2:28 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014

Ramsdell’s life ‘centered around music’

By Rick McCrabb

Staff Writer


    One of Middletown’s most recognizable and appreciated voices has gone silent.

    Helen Gerber Ramsdell, who taught voice lessons for more than 90 years, died Tuesday at Mount Pleasant Retirement Village. She was 107.

    She was a voice instructor for thousands of students since she was 16. Ramsdell taught voice lessons to students at her home on Central Avenue in Middletown for many years and at Miami University Middletown for 10 years after her husband, Robert, died in 1964.

    “I just like to teach people to sing,” she said in a 2009 interview. “I just like to see the difference in their voices from the time they came, and how strong they get. It’s so nice to take a voice and see it improve; get stronger and stronger, and work on the quality.”

    Martha Johnson, 77, said her mother’s “whole life was centered around music.”

    Just hours before she died, Ramsdell was visited by the Rev. Greg Gibson, pastor at First Presbyterian Church on Central Avenue in Middletown. He read scripture, sang Christmas carols and asked Ramsdell if she ever conducted Handel’s Messiah.

    Then he sang, “Hallelujah,” and Ramsdell, right on cue, started conducting, Johnson said.

“She lived her life right to the end,” her daughter said.

    Johnson made the eight-hour drive from her home in northern Michigan to Monroe in time to say good-bye to her mother. She sat at her bedside and held her hand until she passed away.

    “It was a beautiful thing,” Johnson said. “She went in peace.”

    Ramsdell, who moved to Middletown to live with her paternal uncle, Dr. David Gerber, graduated from Middletown High School in 1925 and later from Western College for Women in Oxford. She attended the College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati and traveled to Italy with   Dr. Gerber and his family in 1930-31 to study at the renowned La Scala opera in Milan.

    She served as music director of the First Baptist Church in Middletown for nearly four decades (1933-1972), taught at Miami University for 10 years, and was the choral director for the Middletown School of Nursing.

    Memorial services will be 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 3 at the First Presbyterian Church. Burial is at Woodside Cemetery. In memoriam, contributions may be sent to the Middletown Symphony Orchestra, Helen Gerber Ramsdell Scholarship Fund, the First Baptist Church Music Fund, or the First Presbyterian Church Music Fund.


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