Universally described as friendly, mellow and laid-back, Ramsey was a talented pitcher—the top high school baseball recruit from Arizona—and took considerable pride in his easy-going West-coast persona.
“You could talk to the guy about anything,” said his former Quincy roommate, Christopher J. Eitzmann ’00. “You came in and he was always playing great music, mellow music, sometimes playing it himself on his guitar. And he never seemed to be in a bad mood.”
But his baseball career did not take off as well as he had planned, leading him to leave Harvard after his sophomore year to pursue baseball at the University of Arizona. He returned a year and a half later to finish his degree in Cambridge.
Harvard baseball coach Joe Walsh said Ramsey had gained maturity during his time away from Harvard.
“He was rugged, yet had gentleman-type behavior,” Walsh said. “He was receptive when we said, ‘Josh, this is what you gotta do.’ A lot of kids can’t do that.”
In a letter written for his memorial service, former Quincy House Master Michael Shinagel wrote that “he came to realize that his future was not in baseball but in his academic field of biology.”
After graduating from Harvard, he began working at a shrimp farm in Eritrea. A biology professor with whom he had worked at the University of Arizona had been hired by the biotech firm that ran the farm, and asked Ramsey to come.
Ramsey was planning a return to the U.S. one week after the fatal car crash.
Friends were not surprised Ramsey took the exotic posting.
“That’s typical Josh,” said Derek P. Yankoff ’99. “He’s going to do someting that everyone would want to do, but no one has the guts to do it.”
Though he may have gotten more serious about his academic pursuits upon his return to Harvard, for many, his social, happy-go-lucky charisma remained intact.
“He was friendly with everyone, not just with athletes,” said former Quincy House Senior Tutor John Gerry, who is now assistant dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Ramsey found his place in the Harvard social scene easily as a member of the Fox Club after his return from Arizona.
Eitzmann said Ramsey often “would call [friends] up, and be like, ‘Why don’t you come over?’ So we’d come, and he’d be sitting there with pitchers of beer, watching TV, and he’d be like, ‘You guys aren’t going anywhere tonight.’”
He also started bartending at Harvard Square restaurant T.G.I. Friday’s, where friends could depend on him to “take care of us a little,” in the words of his friend and teammate, Harold R. Carey ’99.