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Maynard Ramsay Dies; Beetle Expert

By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 28, 2005; Page B05

Maynard Jack Ramsay, 90, an entomologist and internationally recognized beetle specialist with the Agriculture Department for many years, died of pneumonia March 20 at the Arden Courts nursing home in Silver Spring. He lived in Bowie.

Dr. Ramsay was born in Buffalo and graduated from the University of Buffalo with a bachelor's degree in biology and a master's degree in mammalogy. In 1941, he received a doctorate in entomology from Cornell University, where he did research on the Mexican bean beetle and its damage to crops in southern New York.

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He worked as an economic entomologist with the USDA in 1941 and spent the World War II years on assignment in St. Paul, Minn. He moved to New York City in 1945 and served for the next 23 years as an agricultural inspector and supervisor with the Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Force, then part of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and now part of the Department of Homeland Security.

An instructor in the USDA's Point Four Program, he taught graduate and postdoctoral students from all over the world the intricacies of controlling imported insect pests. In 1968, he moved with his family to Bowie after a transfer to the Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville.

During his 36 years in government service, he often was called upon to provide his beetle expertise to the Smithsonian Institution and entomological organizations in the United States and elsewhere. He once provided entomological advice to writer John Steinbeck and found himself quoted on the subject of killer bees in the opening of Arthur Herzog's best-selling novel "The Swarm."

Dr. Ramsay retired from the USDA in 1977 but continued to consult on entomological matters. He found, for example, the source of wood borers accidentally imported from Greece via Italy during the construction of the Kennedy Center.

He was listed in American Men of Science and Who's Who in America and was a member of the entomological societies of America and Washington. He was a past president of the Insecticide Society of Washington.

He served as a Boy Scout master and was an elder and trustee with the Trinity Moravian Church in New Carrollton. He participated in a number of Crop Walks in Bowie and in later years donated food and time to the Crop Walk efforts of his church. He made a hobby of English literature and could quote extended portions of English and American poetry. He also enjoyed target shooting.

Dr. Ramsay's wife, Alberta June Ramsay, died in 2003.

Survivors include five children, Paul Ramsay of Manassas, Craig Ramsay of Murfreesboro, Tenn., Leigh Ramsay of Poway, Calif., Bruce Ramsay of Takoma Park and Carolyn Sue Bly of Arkport, N.Y.; 10 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

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