Obituary: Irene P. Ramseth, 95, was a nurse, homemaker, inventor

03/12/2014 8:30 PM

03/12/2014 8:31 PM

Irene P. Ramseth, a resourceful homemaker who earned patents on clever household inventions, died March 2 at 95, her family said.

Mrs. Ramseth was a nurse and Navy officer who married a doctor and left her professional career to raise four children at home after World War II. Arriving in Sacramento in 1959, she also devoted herself to volunteering in school, church and charity organizations.

She was active in Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd and was elected the congregation’s first woman president. She was a founding member of Sacramento Country Day School and drove the “school bus” in the early years.

“It was her station wagon,” her daughter Linden Beck said. “The school was just starting up and they needed a way to get a couple of kids from Citrus Heights there, so she drove them.”

Educated and accomplished, Mrs. Ramseth devised creative solutions to domestic challenges that earned her several patents, her family said. At a time before vehicles came loaded with cupholders, she created a support rod and straps for hanging a litter bag from the glove compartment. For church socials, she invented a top that attached to jars of instant coffee for pouring a premeasured amount of granules into cups, eliminating the need for guests to share a spoon.

She attached canvas extensions to the sides of her small wheelbarrow to provide more room for leaves she raked every fall at her Arden area home. The same concept lay behind extensions she placed under an ironing board to keep big items from touching the floor while she ironed.

“She didn’t make and sell any of them,” her daughter said. “She was a homemaker, and that was just her type of thing.”

Invention was a family tradition for Mrs. Ramseth. She was a descendant of the Ronning family, Minnesota farmers who held patents for tractors, harvesters and other farming equipment.

Mrs. Ramseth was born Sept. 3, 1918, in Henan province, China, where her parents Lars and Anne Ronning Hompland were Lutheran missionaries. Raised with three sisters, she recalled a happy and adventurous childhood speaking Chinese as her first language, being taught at home by her mother until she was 10 and fleeing with her family from bandits who roamed central China.

She was salutatorian at an American boarding school in China and emigrated to the United States in 1935. She attended St. Olaf College, graduated from University of Minnesota and earned a master’s degree in nursing at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

She joined the Navy as a lieutenant junior grade and met William Jean Welch in the medical corps in San Diego. They married in 1944, settled in Sacramento after he finished medical school as an anesthesiologist and were together until his death in 1985.

After her children were older, she returned to nursing for almost 20 years in Sacramento. She took Chinese classes and earned a public health certificate at California State University, Sacramento. In 1987, she married Rudolph Ramseth, an old friend from St. Olaf College and former minister at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd.

In addition to her husband of 26 years and Beck, Mrs. Ramseth is survived by her son William Welch and daughters Kimberly Hemmer and Denise Halloran; two sisters, Rebecca Hughes-Hartogs and Ruth Olson; five stepchildren; 22 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

A memorial service is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, 1615 Morse Ave., Sacramento.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd; China Services Ventures, 1407 Cleveland Ave. N., St. Paul, MN 55108; or Sacramento Country Day School, 2636 Latham Drive, Sacramento95864.

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