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September 3, 2019

Faces of Fauquier: Veteran stonemason still refining

Photo/Don Del Rosso
“We have more work than we can do,” Wilson Ramey Jr. says of his four-man company.
You’ve got to dedicate yourself to going to work every day. It’s hard. You’ve got to climb scaffolds, climb ladders. The stone’s hard . . . . You get chips in your face.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The Marshall stonemason learned much of what he knows about the trade from a Southern Fauquier master.

“He told me how to plumb corners and not to run the joints too long” — to lay patterns that strike a balance between the vertical and horizontal placement of stone, Wilson W. Ramey Jr. said of his mentor and former father-in-law, Midland’s Sam Gouldthorpe.

Mr. Gouldthorpe died in the mid-1980s at age 79.

For about eight years, Mr. Ramey worked as a laborer beside the stonemason, carefully watching and listening to him practice and explain the work.

“He told me a lot,” Mr. Ramey, 79, recalled. “He was patient — more patient than I am.”

In 1970, Mr. Ramey established a one-man stonemasonry business of own.

Today, Ramey Masonry employs four — Mr. Ramey, his son Kevin, who owns 50 percent of the company, a grandson and a helper.

“We have more work than we can do,” Mr. Ramey said. “We’ve got a lot of people that recommend us.”

The company does all manner of interior and exterior work, stone or brick.

Ramey Masonry’s notable stone projects in Warrenton include the veterans memorial on Hospital Hill, the Walker Drive Business Park along the town’s eastern edge and a circular, flower bed in the front yard of orthodontist Alfred C. Griffin Jr.’s office at 179 Broadview Ave.

Over the years, the company has done plenty of residential and commercial jobs in Northern Virginia and the Piedmont.

“I can’t even tell you how many we’ve done,” Mr. Ramey said the of company’s projects. “We’ve done so many.”

But, the Fauquier native who grew up near Orlean, lists a residential job in Rappahannock as perhaps his favorite.

“We started on that about two years ago,” Mr. Ramey said. “I like the waterfall, the arch we did; it has a hot tub.”

In June, he and the crew returned to patch a concrete wall fronting the home, face it with rock and construct a stone entrance to the property.

Purists, they use only hammers — never saws — to “cut” stone, Mr. Ramey said.

“I like where it looks like a natural-type wall, like the stone was pulled out of the ground, not something that’s artificial,” he added.

The work doesn’t suit everyone, Mr. Ramey said.

“You’ve got to dedicate yourself to going to work every day,” he said. “It’s hard. You’ve got to climb scaffolds, climb ladders. The stone’s hard . . . . You get chips in your face.”

While Mr. Ramey thinks about slowing down, he still welcomes the works creative challenges.

“I’m learning a little bit every day,” he said.

• Age
79

• Home 
Near Marshall

• Work
Stonemason, 1959-present

• Why do you do the job?
I work with my son and grandson, so all three are together. I’ve been doing this for 50-something years. I can come back years later and say, “I did that.” It’s still standing and in good shape.

• Family
Wife, Pat, 78; two children from previous family; 10 grandchildren

• Education
Cedar Lee High School, 1961.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
All my life.

• Why do you live here? 
I have no desire to live any other place, because I’ve never travelled that much. People are friendly. It’s a pretty place. I know a whole lot of them. They don’t let a whole bunch of industry in. They don’t build in the farmland. There’s plenty of work here.

• How do you describe this county? 
A lot of open land. The mountains are pretty. The majority of the people are nice and friendly. You can ask your neighbor for help, and your neighbor normally comes and helps you.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
We could have a little more industry so the taxes would be lower for homeowners. I’d like to see more things for young people to do.

• What do you do for fun? 
Grow my grass and garden.

We still go to all of Fauquier High School’s (home) football games. We don’t travel as far away like we used to. We’ve been to every home game since 1968 or 1969. We watch football in Rappahannock. I’ve got a grandson playing on the high school team.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
Northern Fauquier Community Park.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years? 
Overcrowded. In time, they’re going to have to let more housing being built, because people keep coming and keep coming to Fauquier, because of the beauty of the land. Finally, they’re going to have to let them do it, sooner or later. That’s my theory.

But, who knows? Fauquier’s made enough ordinances where they’re going to keep people out.

It’s going to change, but it’s not going to be like Loudoun and Prince William.

Taxes are going to go up, of course, like everything else.

• Favorite TV show?
I don’t have a favorite TV show, because I watch almost nothing but sports. I watch the Nationals and the Yankees. I’m a big Yankees fan; I’ve been that for many, many years.

• Favorite movie? 
“Brian’s Song.”

• Favorite book?
I don’t have a favorite book. I like to read about any sports personality, most sports.

• Favorite vacation spot? 
A friend’s farm just outside of Johnson City, Tenn.

• Favorite food? 
Any seafood.

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom? 
My dad. The main thing he told is you’ve got to work. It may not be exactly what you want to at the time. But, what you want to do will come up, which ended up me being a stonemason.

• Who’s your hero and why?
My mom. She took care of all of us — five children. She washed our clothes, kept things clean around the house, cooked for us, made sure we got up to go to school. She put up with my father. She was a loving person.

• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery? 
I wouldn’t do any more stonework. My kids would get part of it. I’d probably donate some to youth sports in the county. As far as I’m concerned, sports keep kids out of a lot of trouble. It kept me out of trouble. Without it, I would have been on the streets of Warrenton.

When kids stay on the streets, or don’t have something to do, that’s when all the stuff starts as far as getting in trouble — drugs or crime or whatever they do.

Have a suggestion?
Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? Email Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or Lou Emerson at LKE@fauquiernow.com.

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Linda Ward · September 4, 2019 at 3:12 pm
We understand the Ramey's are busy. Anyone know of other companies that do this kind of work in the area? We found one other one, but he's out getting knee surgery.
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