I was born LeaEllen Ramsey (pronounced Lee) no middle name, dropped Ellen in high school and just went by Lea. I was born on March 23, 1953 in San Diego at Balboa Naval Hospital. My mother, Leatha Warren, was born in Farmer City, Illinois. She met my stepdad Joseph Ramsey in San Diego during Fleet Week, while she was waitressing at a coffee shop. My stepdad was in the Navy; he served aboard submarines. As a military family, we traveled all over the United States from one military base to another in the back of a camper shell on a Ford pickup when seatbelts were not required. We settled in Pensacola, Florida, where I call home.
I am the oldest of five siblings. My siblings all live in Florida; my three brothers are all veterans. My sister, was born on my 9th birthday. We all were raised in one of the last generations with manners and respect for authority.
I graduated high school in 1971. I was not really interested or very good at school. I was the first of my siblings to join the military, joining the U.S. Army shortly after graduating. My first night away from my family was spent eight hours riding a Greyhound bus, arriving in Alabama at 1 in the morning. I was 18 years old and very scared, alone and ill-prepared for the changes about to happen in my life. I entered a world with about 30 young women just as scared as I was.
We were all being ordered to get up at a certain time and were not able to call home for the first three weeks. I went through basic training in Alabama. I was very excited when I received my first paycheck, $350 for a month. I thought I was rich.
I made my first solo road trip to San Antonio, Texas where I attended Dental Assistant Training. After completion I was transferred to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where I met my first husband, Armando Arviso, a Military Police officer. He must have been stalking me, because he pulled me over going one mile over the speed limit. After a brief romance we were married in Florida. I was only 19 and had to have permission and we had to have a blood test.
We honeymooned on a road trip back to Oklahoma where we finished up our military careers. We then road tripped to Turlock, my husband’s hometown. We purchased our first home and settled in as a newly married couple. After a miscarriage at the age of 21, I had a son at 23, then a daughter at the age of 25. I then miscarried twins at the age of 31. We later separated and divorced at 35.
My son, Armando Arviso, works as a Geek Squad Technician installing home theater systems in Modesto. He is married to Linda and they have five beautiful girls, ages six through 16, and two puppies. My daughter Shannan teaches kindergarten and is married to Alex Prunes and recently purchased their first home in Bakersfield. They have a new puppy, Charlie.
I met my second husband Walter Minyard in Modesto while I was raising my children as a single parent. He was working for a company based in Modesto, but he was working in San Francisco. I would spend every other weekend traveling to San Francisco and he would travel back to Modesto on the opposite weekends. We must have really been in love, all of those miles traveling back and forth to see each other. Walter was in San Francisco at the time of the earthquake of ’89, a very scary moment for us. He looked out his apartment window and could see the Marina District burning.
Later that year he moved back to Modesto and became a stepdad to my children. In 1995 his work brought him to Clovis/Fresno. With my son off to college, we found a home and settled in. In December of 1995 his mother passed away; we then moved into her family home.
I worked various jobs during my life, Gallo Winery in Modesto, a very physical job. My favorite job was working for a portrait/senior high school photographer, Maxwell Studio. I did various tasks, sales, and my favorite, Lab Technician where I actually produced photos. In 1999 I was told I would need to quit working because I was no longer physically able to work. Not working is very boring. I started doing volunteer work at the Clovis Salvation Army, helping with the weekly distribution and the Christmas Angel Tree program that distributes toys to children. I volunteer at the front desk at the Clovis Senior Activity Center. I am also a proud veteran and a member of the Clovis American Legion Cecil Cox Post 147.
In 2014 while recovering from knee replacement, I lost the use of my legs. After a very scary surgery, being temporarily paralyzed and a six-month recovery period, I am gratefully able to walk.
In my free time I like to crochet and quilt (my new passion). I feel that I am very lucky and blessed to have lived the life that has been given to me. I have cherished friends that I deeply care for. My husband, children and grandchildren I love with all my heart. I love my life!