Cal Poly journalism professor George Ramos was found dead in his Morro Bay home Saturday at the age of 63.
According to an article on CalCoastNews.com, where Ramos was editor, he had not contacted anyone from work for several days. CalCoastNews.com reporter Karen Velie said she had not heard from Ramos in nearly 10 days.
“I knew when he wasn’t available there was something wrong,” Velie said. “I went to his house and his car was in his garage. I pulled up and stood on (my) car to look in the window (and saw the car. Later, I saw) the TV was on.”
Velie also said she saw small disturbances, such as a newspaper outside the door that had not been retrieved and a coke can that was left out.
Morro Bay police officer Dale Cullum said the police were alerted to Ramos’ condition by a friend who flagged down a passing police officer. According to Cullum, the officer then did a “welfare check.”
The police later contacted Velie, asking for her to go to Ramos’ house. When she got there, the police received permission to jimmy a window open near a rear bedroom in order to get into the house.
Velie said the police found Ramos laying in the hallway, and it looked as if he he had fallen and hit his head. Although cause of death is unknown, Cullum said it would be the coroner’s decision whether or not to perform an autopsy, because Ramos’ death was most likely due to natural causes.
Velie began working with Ramos in 2009, when Ramos joined CalCoastNews.com as editor, and said she admired the man who did so much for journalism in the area.
“It’s a massive blow to the journalism commmunity, especially in San Luis Obispo County,” she said. “So many people in journalism love him.”
Cal Poly graphic communication department chair Harvey Levenson was close with Ramos. Levenson said he and Ramos became close while Ramos was chair of Cal Poly’s journalism department, and the two shared offices on the same floor.
“I knew him more as a son than as a faculty colleague,” Levenson said. “We used to joke around a lot … we both loved baseball. He was a cool guy, a really cool guy. Easy to joke around with, easy to talk to.”
Levenson also said he appreciated Ramos as a faculty member.
“He had a lot to contribute,” Levenson said. “He was an award-winning journalist.”
Ramos, who spent more than 30 years in daily journalism, was a winner of three Pulitzer Prizes and inducted into the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Hall of Fame in 2007. He taught both Writing for the Media and Journalism History at Cal Poly, serving as the department chair from 2003 to 2007. He began to teach at Cal Poly after leaving his job at the Los Angeles Times in order to work at the university he graduated from in 1969.
“George was passionate about journalism and his students, and he was passionate about promoting his students in the future,” Velie said. “(His death) just blew me away.”
Cal Poly College of Liberal Arts dean Linda Halisky said she was also blown away by the news.
“We’re all pretty shocked about it, as you can imagine,” Halisky said. “Ramos was absoulutely dedicated to the department and its students.”
No plans have been made as of yet by Cal Poly to commemorate Ramos, Halisky said.
“It’s too soon to know, but I’m sure we will want to recognize him in some way,” she said.
Vicki Billings, Karlee Prazak and Kaytlyn Leslie contributed to this article.