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Don Ramatici, consummate Petaluman, dies

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If there is one word to describe Don Ramatici it is “Petaluman.”

Ramatici was born in Petaluma, the first baby baptized at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, grew up in Petaluma, excelled in football at Petaluma High School, married in Petaluma, raised five children in Petaluma, started a successful business in Petaluma, gave much to the community of Petaluma and on Feb. 9, he died in Petaluma. He was 90 years old.

The church is just one of many Petaluma organizations and institutions to benefit from Ramatici’s generosity, leadership, drive and determination. When St. Vincent was in need of repairs and renovations, Ramatici was one of the leaders in the capital campaign that financed its refurbishment.

That project was one of many spearheaded by a Petaluman who spent a lifetime helping others. He was a major supporter of youth sports, the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Petaluma Educational Foundation, Petaluma Valley Hospital Foundation and Hospice of Marin.

“A lot of things he did to help people will never know about. He did many things on a personal basis just to help people,” said his daughter Susan Powers.

He was also one of the leaders in the campaign to renovate the football field and track at Petaluma High School. He was a leader and a past president of the Rotary Club of Petaluma, and a member of the Petaluma Elks Lodge, the Native Sons, the Elks Foundation and the Elks Hall Association. He was a member of the Petaluma Hospice Board and the Petaluma Valley Hospital Foundation Board.

“He gave back so much, but he did it in a very quiet way,” said his long-time friend Dan Libarle. “He did it out of the goodness of his heart without any fanfare.”

Ramatici will be long remembered for his community contributions, but he was also an astute businessman man who founded Don Ramatici Insurance, Inc. in 1958, and build it into one of Northern California’s largest privately owned insurance firms.

He was also an outstanding athlete who excelled in football at Petaluma High School and went on to play for the University of San Francisco.

He was on the famous 1951 USF team that went unbeaten and untied, but never played in any post-season bowl game because two of its players, including future NFL Hall of Famer Ollie Matson, were African-American. The team was invited to play in several bowl games without the two African-American players, but Ramatici and his teammates declined.

Once he finished college, Ramatici’s football days were far from over. He joined Gene Benedetti’s famous Petaluma Leghorn semi pro team, and his gridiron success continued. The prowess of the Leghorns are still legendary in the Bay Area.

Powered by returning war veterans and former college players, the Petaluma team steamrolled most opposition and captured the imagination of the entire community, attracting thousands to their contests in the days before television and the NFL.

After Benedetti retired from coaching, Ramatici kept the Leghorns alive by being both player and coach. He also loved to play rugby and passed along his love for that game to his son, John. Today his grandson, Daniel Powers, plays the game.

Ramatici’s life was not without tragedy. He lost his beloved wife of 64 years, Janice, 11 years ago and, in 2012, lost both his son, John, and daughter Donna within six weeks of one another to illness.

Through it all, Don Ramatici kept helping his community and others.

“It is a sad time for our community,” said Libarle, who used to be water boy for Ramatici’s Leghorn teams and grew to be one of his best friends for close to 60 years. “He was a man’s man, a family man and he loved everything about Petaluma. He was the consummate gentleman.”

He was also a family man.

“He was very supportive for all us kids,” said Powers. “He always encouraged us to do our best and give back. I couldn’t go anywhere without someone saying, ‘I know your dad.’ It was a good name to drop if I needed something.”

Petaluma City Schools District Board Member Mike Baddeley used the word “great” to describe his friend and fellow Rotarian.

“He was a great businessman, great family man, great friend and great ambassador for Petaluma,” Baddeley said. “Don used to say, ‘Etch a man’s accomplishments in stone; his failings in sand. It would take a lot of stone to etch Don’s accomplishments.”

Ramatici is survived by his daughters Susan Powers (Tom) and Joan Gladson (John) and son Paul Ramatici. He was preceded in death by wife Janice, son John, daughter Donna and brother, Stan. He is also survived by 14 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.

A funeral mass will be held Friday at 10 a.m. at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, 35 Liberty St. A visitation will be held Thursday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Parent-Sorenson Mortuary and Crematory, 850 Keokuk St. with a Rosary at St. Vincent de Paul Church at 7 p.m. There will be a private entombment at Calvary Catholic Cemetery.