Special Editorial by Kent Lester
The loss of CJ Ramstad and his son, JJ, last Sunday, struck a cruel blow to the hearts of their family and friends. Both loom large in our memory banks and CJ’s life will forever be engraved on the powersports industry.
The e-mails of sympathy and support for the family continue to pour in and it’s wonderful that, in passing, CJ is receiving the praise he so richly deserves.
He proved to be a great friend to so many of his readers and, especially, to those who got to meet him face to face – maybe riding his beloved scooter around Hay Days (wearing the worst looking Hawaiian shirts I’d personally ever seen) or at a vintage snowmobile racing event giving tips and historical information on long forgotten brands.
He showed genuine interest; often taking the time to personally research requested details that no one else could have ever provided.
This is a big part of the loss. CJ had a grasp of the powersports industry like no one else. He watched and documented the ATV business and, especially, the snowmobile business, from its genesis.
He was there when the racing started, taking pictures of the heroes, interviewing them (without them realizing it) and writing stories that brought the sport alive to his readers.
He told stories about people who first invented, innovated, adventured and raced. He gave the inside details on the earliest development of products we purchased to bring excitement to our lives. He wrote about the greatest places in the world to explore in the winter.
He rarely took notes. He had such a depth of knowledge of mechanical things and a foundation of information, he could listen to a presentation once, go back to the office and write an epic, detailed account from memory.
CJ’s photo collection provides an unbelievable history of our sport. It goes back to the early sixties, complete with brochures, slides, prints and technical data on every snowmobile ever created, all thoroughly documented and organized for quick retrieval. It is a treasure and one we need to preserve for all time.
The man was a fountain of creativity. As an editor, I couldn’t wait to hear the slant CJ had dreamt up on a year’s worth of publishing.
He provided lists of story ideas, all unique. He always wanted to tweak things, make them better – probably developed from his years of fiddling with CVT clutching and 2-stroke engines.
I never wrote a story or put together a magazine layout without dreading the Monday morning call from CJ after the magazine had been published.
He (always) saw the things I’d missed and he made sure the errors were indelibly etched on my mind. Sometimes he’d just send the whole magazine, loaded cover to cover with sticky notes, disagreeing.
It drove us all to do a better job, to strive to be as close to perfect as possible, to write with enthusiasm and always: “find a unique twist and write about it”.
My last and most profound memories of CJ were at this year’s Snow Shoot event in March at Grand Lake, Colorado. We would spend the whole day taking snowmobile photos and then, at about 5:00pm, break for the day. We’d unwind on the second floor balcony, breathing the fresh mountain air, telling stories and trading lies just like all snowmobilers do. It was an opportunity to see CJ in a different way.
He told us how proud he was of his kids: JJ a developing musician, Marly a talented, blossoming writer, and his feelings for Karla, his wife and soulmate, the love of his life. This was not easy for CJ. He was always private about his feelings, something bred into him from his Scandinavian roots.
Four of us sat there, never knowing what May 6 would bring. Godspeed, my friend.
To make a financial donation to the C.J. & J.J. Ramstad Memorial Fund, send your gift to:
CJ & JJ Ramstad Memorial Fund
c/o Beacon Bank
19765 Highway Seven
Shorewood, MN 55331