New highway sign points travelers toward Ramona

Travelers driving along U.S. Highway 77 will now get new direction to the city of Ramona near the northern border of marion County, thanks to a new sign installed recently at the intersection with 360th.

Former Mayor Pat Wick began the sign campaign in 2004 with the help of her sister, Jessica Gilbert.

?The late Tony Meyer actually inspired the project,? Gilbert said, ?because when Tampa put up its wonderful sign on (Kansas) Highway 15, Tony said, ?We need something like that for Ramona on Highway 77. I?ll give you $100 to get it going.??

Meyer?s lifelong friend, Erich Utech, chipped in $50.

The sisters began fundraising through The Ramona News, a quarterly newsletter, which they published from 2001 to 2008. It took seven years from those first contributions until the sign materialized against the prairie sky.

Through the years people faithfully added to the fund?sometimes in memory of loved ones who had died, sometimes because folks had good memories of Ramona.

In summer 2007, Jim and Carol (Shields) Schoof drove into town from Texas for a reunion, and handed Gilbert a check for $350.

?That made the sign fund leap for joy,? Gilbert said.

Gerald Dorsch, teacher at Ramona High School in the 1950s, recently sent checks of $100 or more, with a note that read, ?I get royalty checks from gas wells that I inherited; I?m sending them along to Ramona for the sign fund.?

The sign design was inspired by the late Fred Utech?s 1927 Model T truck, which he inherited from his father, William, according to Gilbert. Fred occasionally entered his truck in Ramona?s 4th of July parade.

Wick said to the city council, ?How about a little old-fashioned truck to advertise a little old fashioned town??

Gilbert said, ?Whenever I drive by the sign, I think of the people whose generosity and love for Ramona made the sign come to life, which includes people like City Councilman Art Stroda, who built the foundation for the sign, and the Florine Daetwiler Trust for the use of the land.?

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