biography by her sister, eulogy by her sister, eulogy by her children


Member of the RHS class of 1968 who died on October 1, 2008.

Biography of LaNell Ramsvig Sado by her sister, Becky Ramsvig Sapp

After we moved to Florida in 1968, LaNell got her B.A. in education from the University of South Florida, and then went back a few years later for her Master’s in Library Science, also from USF. She worked several years as a teacher and media specialist in the Clearwater, Florida area, and moved to Bel Air, Maryland around 1975, teaching in Havre de Grace. I’m not sure of the exact date, but I was also living in Maryland at that time and I remember that we all took the train to Washington to be here for the bicentennial celebration.

In Bel Air she became good friends with Gene Petersen, author and translator of The Message, and in fact she is listed in the acknowledgments in his book Living the Message. Her faith was her foundation, and it helped her through many hard times.

She eventually moved to Arlington, married John (a fun-loving guy, full of life, energy and curiosity) and had two children, Whitney and Keith. John was an attorney and worked in the District. We lived across the street from each other and were very close, as were our husbands and children. LaNell was a stay-at-home mom while the kids were young, but eventually returned to teaching. We spent many summer vacations together at the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and went to Mexico and the Virgin Islands together. The Sado’s also hiked through the national parks of the west, drove all over the east coast and traveled through Europe. LaNell loved to travel, but was also happy at home baking cookies and just being with friends.

John died of brain cancer in 2005. Whitney was at Stanford as an undergrad, and graduated on Father’s Day the following year. She went on to law school at Stanford and graduated on Mother’s Day last year, seven months after LaNell’s sudden passing on October 1, 2008. Keith is a senior at Brown and will be going to the University of Virginia Law School next fall.

When I think of our lives over these past years, the thing that stands out is LaNell’s devotion to her family. We had so much fun, some of it unique to this area, like the Cherry Blossom festivals, inaugural parades, the Easter egg roll at the White House, concerts at the Kennedy Center, the lighting of the National Christmas tree and services at the National Cathedral. Many of our good times, though, and perhaps the best ones, were the days we cooked out, went shopping, watched our kids play sports, called each other just to chat, or sat on the deck with our husbands sipping wine and looking at the stars.

LaNell was a little unsure of herself when she left you all at the age of 17, but she turned out to be a rock, confident in her ability to handle whatever life handed her, and it handed her a lot. She was talking to me once admiringly about someone who “sparkled,” but she did more—she radiated, radiated warmth and life and energy and compassion. She remembered you all, her good friends, and would have loved to join you for your reunion.

Eulogy for LaNell Ramsvig Sado by her sister, Becky Ramsvig Sapp

LaNell called herself a prairie girl and loved the big sky and the outdoors, animals and nature. We grew up on a farm in Iowa where we played croquet and chased fireflies in the summer, gathered black walnuts in the woods in the fall, dug ourselves out of snowdrifts in the winter and thanked God for spring.

Our kids have heard how we walked a half mile to catch the bus for the hour long ride to school, wearing our thin rubber boots and our wool scarves tied under our chins. No fashion police there. LaNell played the clarinet in the marching band, sang in the girls' chorus, and joined the track and basketball teams. We both joined FHA, that's Future Homemakers of America, because it met on the same night as FFA, which was Future Farmers of America. Social opportunities were limited. Her class had 25 students. She was great at basketball and loved sports her whole life, cheering Whitney and Keith with all the enthusiasm she herself showed out on the court.

Once a month we went to Fort Dodge, 45 miles up the road, to get our braces tightened. This was a treat because we also got to get a candy bar at Osco Drugs. I know it sounds like this was a hundred years ago, but the area was very rural and also very beautiful, with gentle hills and green cornfields and golden hayfields and a big blue sky over all of it.

We had adversity, not just hail and floods and blizzards, but the loss of our mother as teenagers, and later the loss of our father as young adults. But our parents taught us those good solid Midwestern values which LaNell showed so clearly in her own life: she was humble, principled, caring and determined. She loved her God, her family and her country. She was strong and stoic, and when John left us 3 years ago, she carried on, still serving others and living in hope.

She was a thinker, searching for truth and knowledge, and loved to talk about ideas and discoveries as she did with many of you. But she was also a do-er, showing in practical everyday ways what she believed.

LaNell kept her childlike spirit all her life. She loved holidays; this was one of her favorite times of year, with Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas all approaching. Our families always walked around the neighborhood on Halloween together when the kids were little, and she was especially excited about the chocolate in their trick or treat bags. But it was the atmosphere that was exciting, and even after the kids were older she loved to be out on Halloween night.

She baked pecan pies every Thanksgiving, happy in her kitchen with her apron covered in flour and the Macy's Day parade on TV. And Christmas was always special. She didn't get mad when the cats climbed the Christmas tree and knocked it over, and though she was excited about the gifts she was giving and was busy making fudge and Magic Cookie Bars and cranberry bread, she knew what we were really celebrating and what brought joy to the world.

She loved children, connecting with them in a special way. To Alex, Natalie and Rachel, she was a second mother. She loved teaching and books and games and jokes. She loved to bake and laugh and play cards. She loved Huckleberry and her kitties, and most of all she loved her family. I can't tell you how much she loved her family.

When I walked into her room last Wednesday night, I saw that one of the books on her nightstand was N.T. Wright's Surprised by Hope. I thought how fitting that title was for someone who left us so unexpectedly and suddenly as she did, maybe surprised to be on earth one moment and at the next in the presence of our Lord.

We walked our dogs together every day, and many times as we walked she'd look around and exclaim, "What a glorious day!" And now she's not here and we miss her so much, but I know she'd want us to remember that for her, it still is and always will be a glorious day.

Eulogy for LaNell Ramsvig Sado by her children, Keith and Whitney

Our Mom used to do various things when we were little which Whitney and I deemed so remarkable that in order to express our gratitude we would utter the title that “You’re the best mommy in the world.”

Not surprisingly this was an agreeable title to hear from her kids which she immediately became fond of. When something didn’t go perfectly according to plans such as getting stuck in traffic when picking us up from a rainy sports practice, she would playfully/facetiously say “Welp, it looks like I might not be winning the best mother of the year award this year!”

Being told she was the best mommy in the world meant so much to Mom. She was incredibly devoted to her family – which, ya know, is awesome and all, except sometimes you just want your mom to leave you alone =) But she would truly do anything we asked her to do, and most things we didn’t ask her to do. Anytime I had friends over, she would bake for us. She loved sending me little care packages at school – most recently, last weekend I got My Little Pony gummi bears. The included note said that she saw the snacks at Safeway and was overcome with memories of me playing with my My Little Pony toys as a little girl. She also knew that I love all “food products” gummi-related, and so had to buy them for me. That was Mom. So thoughtful and loving.

Mom amazingly packed me my lunch almost daily from elementary school through this past summer at a job internship. She took joy in making the perfect nutritional meal and loved hearing the feedback from both me and admiring friends and a lunch table. This became was the source for a joke between us in high school: We’d laugh because often times rather than first asking the typical “how was your day today Keith?” the first thing Mom asked me was “how’d you like your lunch today?”

I had a friend in high school sharing our locker who was not fortunate enough to have these deluxe home made lunches everyday. Sooo….it wasn’t long started “sampling” snacks of mine….unbeknownst to me. It wasn’t long however until mom figured out something was wrong; she’d ask a specific aspect about my lunch—like “Keith, how did you like your peanut butter and celery?” …And I was oblivious to it having been there. When she realized what was going on however, and the fact that this friend had himself lost his mom when he was ????, she lovingly packed both my lunch and then an assortment of healthy snacks for the friend.

Mom was also playfully competitive. It was oft-referenced family lore that she had beat Daddy at Uno at the Thanksgiving dinner party where they first met. She used to say that beating him was how she knew he was “the one.”

She was usually the loudest cheerer – for anyone on our team – at any of our sports games or meets…

She certainly did love and take pride in sports with Whitney and me. This past week, each time we talked mom beamed with various praises about how Whitney had just run the Lake Tahoe Marathon. It’s hard to recall a sports game she wasn’t enthusiastically attending. Most recently this past summer, she came to every one of my basketball games in a league in DC, even though she was often the only person in the gym who was not a player or a referee!

Amusingly, mom would even fondly remember my forgetfulness and the ramifications it brought about. Twice in 2008 already we made trips post 1 AM back to a location to backtrack steps looking for a cell phone. If there was ever a way to make her happy it was finding my cell phone post 1 AM.

Mom also had a very keen protective Mama Bear sense about her. I traveled to Egypt and Jordan in August, and Mom sheepishly gave me some SPF 85 sunscreen that she had bought for me to take along. I scoffed at her purchase and reminded her that my skin wasn’t quite as pale as hers. She shyly replied, “You know I always like to make sure that you’re protected.”

She was planning on coming up to college tomorrow and meeting me there to help me and my suitemates settle into our new place. She knew 20 year olds aren’t particularly good in this area of life! So when I returned home last week I found my room filled with pillows, lamps, batteries, cereal boxes, body wash, toothbrushes…and plenty of deodorant.

Skype video chat.—she loved doing that but took a lot of joy in showing me the various pets around and the traditional panning around my room. She loved that she could bring her home up me at to school.

That kind of sentimentality frequently manifested itself in Mom. I will always remember her as endearingly vulnerable, so she had a real sense of compassion and empathy. Caretaking was Mom’s ultimate joy. Difficult as it was – and it was indescribably difficult – she tended to our father, as cancer ravaged his body, until the moment he died. She had a true servant’s heart.

During the final year of dad’s illness mom worked around the clock to care for dad. She took a leave of absence from work to provide this care and in the closing months slept in a sleeping bag on the floor next to his hospital cot so she could hear his calls in the night. When she left his side she would take with her a two-way radio in order to never really be far. She unmistakably loved him….despite the fact that he was unable to walk and could hardly communicate at the end. Mom’s care for Dad during this time was easily the most incredible demonstration of love I’ve ever seen.

As we look back over Mom’s last year, we are comforted by how cheerful she was. She was never in a bad mood when we called. We occasionally asked her if she was happy, and she always genuinely replied that she was. She said she had a lot to look forward to, and she was very much enjoying her retirement. She was very happy gardening, doing home improvement, swimming and walking and lifting weights, and traveling to visit friends and family.

Most recently and notably, Mom got me my early birthday present with a flight down to Vanderbilt to visit a good college friend. She loved hearing my excitement towards it and the “thank yous” she got via emails and on the phone. She would say “she cant hear it enough it makes her so happy.” She was so glad she said because she had wanted to give something really special for my 21st.

One joy retirement brought was more time to spend with Whitney and me when we were home on break to the Sport and Health Club. It was clear, although she remarked it herself several times, that she really wasn’t going for sport or for health, but because she wanted to share in that bonding experience together.

Shortly after Daddy died three years ago, Mom, Keith and I were out somewhere walking. Keith and I fell into one of our characteristic animated, finish-each-others’-sentences conversations filled with inside jokes and obscure references. Mom fell a few steps behind, observing us, though we were oblivious to it at the time. She later told me that at that moment she was struck by how Keith and I were going to be just fine when her time came.

She said she was so happy to have raised two children with such a close bond, and that she was at complete peace in knowing that we would take care of each other when she was gone.

… I apologized to Mom for leaving her out of our conversation, knowing that Keith and I often unintentionally left her out. She said there was absolutely no reason to apologize, that watching us interact always made her feel so comforted and blessed.

She told me that raising two kids who loved each other so much was her proudest accomplishment.

I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do without her. Of course Keith and I will take care of each other, and of course we will be cared for by our dear family and amazing friends. But nothing can replace a mother. She may have told me that Keith and I would be fine without her, but that deeply underestimated how important she was to us. She truly was the Best Mommy in the World.