The city lost several leaders in 2017 who left their mark on the city.
Ed Taylor touched people’s lives in many ways throughout his 70 years, The former county commissioner and Ottawa businessman was remembered for his leadership and mentoring of young people throughout his life. Taylor died in January after a battle with cancer.
He guided the Board of Franklin County Commissioners through some rough waters in the early to mid-2000s during the switch from three to five commissioners, and when the county went to a management system of government, Roy Dunn, county commissioner, said.
Taylor, who was a commissioner from 2000 to 2012, owned Taylor Surveying for many years.
Alan Radcliffe, county emergency management director since 2004, said Taylor was instrumental in establishing a full-time emergency management position.
Taylor also was a proponent of the Franklin County Development Council. Taylor served on numerous boards and committees, including the FCDC board and the board of Ransom Memorial Hospital, 1301 S. Main St., Ottawa.
... Don Hay, a former Franklin County commissioner, banker and civic leader, also passed away in January.
Hay, 87, was a lifelong Franklin County resident and served as county commissioner from 2003 to 2011. He was a lifetime member of the Ottawa Lions Club and made his mark as an Ottawa banker.
Hay was vice president and director of First National Bank for 26 years, retiring in 1994.
He was the face of the Lions Club for many years, after joining the club in 1968. He served as president in 1973-74; zone chairman, 1974-75; deputy governor, 1975-76, and governor 1976-77. He was a member of Kansas Lions Sight Foundation, serving as director from 1978-1990. He was honored as a Melvin Jones Fellow as well.
Hay was a member of Ottawa Lodge No. 18 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks No. 803, Ottawa; Eagles Lodge Aerie No. 2700, Ottawa; Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce Farm and Ranch committee; Republican precinct committeeman for Franklin County; Franklin County Republican chairman, and district and state Republican delegate.
... Gene Ramsey always did what was best for Ottawans, those who knew him well said.
Ramsey — who died Oct. 22, right before his 88th birthday — served five terms as mayor and almost 20 years as a city commissioner in the City of Ottawa — one of the longest consecutive runs on the city commission in its history.
“It’s a great loss to lose a leader like Gene,” Blake Jorgensen, a current city commissioner and former Ottawa mayor who also served with Ramsey on the commission, said. “He really was kind of a quiet leader and the last of his breed to go through not being in the public light for his own agenda, but more for the good of the community.”
Richard Jackson, chief executive officer of the East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corporation, said Gene was like a brother to him. The two became close while serving on the city commission together and grew closer as their professional lives also took them to serving on separate committees with the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce, working to attract new businesses to the area and promoting shopping locally.
It was during his first year on the city commission that Ramsey said his vision for a safer route from Ottawa to Lawrence drove him to move the discussion from the local arena to Topeka, according to Herald archives. He began lobbying for legislators to widen U.S. 59 to four lanes, between Lawrence and Ottawa, as part of the Kansas Department of Transportation’s 10-year comprehensive transportation plan.
“He saw a need of how dangerous [U.S.] 59 highway was,” Jorgensen said.
Ramsey’s goal became a reality in October 2012, 18 years after his lobbying began, when KDOT officially opened the 11.1-mile stretch of U.S. 59 from the Franklin/Douglas County line to south of Lawrence. The $220-million project began in 1998 with planning and design. Construction started in 2007. The nearly eight-mile portion of the road in Franklin County was completed in 2010.
During Ramsey’s tenure, the city was able to lure Neosho County Community College to town in 1995, which opened its new campus in 2010 on East Logan Street. The city also undertook a major sewer improvement project, paved city streets, expanded sidewalks and walking trails and improved parks during the past two decades.
... Maguerite Gibson, 93, who died Nov. 14, was well-known in the Ottawa and Franklin County communities for her contributions, one of her most notable being a seven-figure donation to help facilitate the building of the Gangwish Library and Gibson Student Center on the OU campus, 1001 S. Cedar St., Ottawa.
“She’s a fabulous person,” Kevin Eichner, president of Ottawa University, said. “There are not many like her. She’s very smart, very committed, had tremendous spunk. I always loved that about her. She appreciated the difference between vision and planning and execution, and she had appropriately high expectations for the organizations to whom she’d committed philanthropically.”
According to Herald archives, Gibson, along with the Carl and Carrie Gangwish family, each donated around $1 million toward the more than $10 million project. In appreciation for their contributions the University named the student center and library after the respective families. Gibson Student Center opened in fall 2014, while the Gangwish Library was officially open for students in fall 2015.
In the mid-1940s, Gibson and her husband owned and operated restaurants throughout Ottawa. During the 50s, the two farmed land at the northeast edge of Ottawa. In 1960, they founded Bing-Go Dog Food, Inc., which was where a large portion of their wealth derived from.
She and her husband also made significant contributions to Ransom Memorial Hospital, 1301 S. Main St., Ottawa. Gibson was also a Ransom Memorial hospital Auxiliary volunteer for more than 30 years, a founding board member of the Franklin County Community Foundations, former member of the Franklin County Extension Unit, member of the D.O. Club, and a former member of the Ransom Memorial Hospital Charitable Association.