Jamaica Gleaner

John Ramson and Elizabeth Silvera rememberin­g their father and mentor


LAURIE RAMSON married Monica Page and had three children, Sally, John and Elizabeth. John and Elizabeth both continue to work at Ramson’s to this day. On weekends, Laurie would take his children to 55 ½ West Street, allowing them to roam the storeroom and familiaris­e themselves with the brands of the business.

“Kellogg’s was the primary product he had at the time,” says Elizabeth Silvera (nee) Ramson, who is currently director of credit at Ramson’s.

“We were the oldest agent for Kellogg’s in the world,” adds John Ramson.

John, who is currently chairman of Chas. E Ramson Limited, began working summers in his family business at age 14. “I would go around with the only merchandis­er in Kingston, and we would pack shelves. Then I would work at West Street in the accounting area.” John was always acutely aware that his future lay with Chas. E. Ramson, and he wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“I was born into this business. When I was a boy at prep school, my mother would go to Times Store and buy me bill books. I’d sit at my desk at home pretending to buy and sell products. I’d write invoices to fake customers. I created my own shop!” he recalls fondly.

On Sunday afternoons, Laurie would take John for drives to the General Post Office on Barry Street and inevitably stop at the office to take advantage of the quiet, to get some work done. “My father worked Monday to Friday, up till noon on Saturday and for a few hours on Sunday. He had an incredible work ethic,” admires John.

“Maybe that’s where we get it from,” adds Elizabeth, who notes that she and her brother can never seem to pull themselves away from work.

Both Elizabeth and John joined their family business in 1971, Elizabeth as export secretary and John as controller. “After completing a business course in Canada, I told my father I wanted to come home to work at Gracekenne­dy,” says Elizabeth. He agreed under one condition: she had to work with him for one year to learn the ropes.

“Carlton Alexander was his friend, and he didn’t want me embarrassi­ng him,” she jokes. Laurie was a man who respected education but also saw the invaluable benefit of on-the-job training. “My father knew the value of practical experience.

“There was one accountant, one sales manager, one sales rep and not much else when I arrived at 55 ½ West Street,” recalls Elizabeth. “My father believed in good service. He would say, ‘Never trust anybody’, because he didn’t. He always felt if you do it yourself, then you know you’ve done it properly.” Elizabeth never made it to Gracekenne­dy. She quickly fell in love with her family business and has remained there to this day.

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