Lawrence J. Ramer, businessman and humanitarian, 84

Lawrence J. Ramer died at his home on Nov. 2 after a long battle with cancer. He was 84. 

Born in Bayonne, N.J., on July 29, 1928, Ramer grew up in Hackensack, N.J. He graduated from Lafayette College with a bachelor’s degree in economics. While earning his MBA from Harvard Business School, Ramer met his future wife, Ina Lee Brown, who was then attending Wellesley College. Married in 1957, the Ramers drove cross-country to Los Angeles, a drive they considered their honeymoon. Starting out in business as assistant to the president of Riverside Cement Co. (later American Cement Co.), Ramer pursued his dream of becoming an entrepreneur and philanthropist. 

As a young executive, Ramer became president and CEO of the National Portland Cement Co. of Bradenton, Fla., and later co-founded the Pacific Coast Cement Co. of Los Angeles. He served as chair and CEO of Bruning Paint Co. in Baltimore and later served as chair of Ramer Equities, a family-run business focused on acquisition and development of manufacturing companies headquartered in Los Angeles. Among his business achievements, Ramer undertook several corporate turnarounds for the Bank of Pennsylvania.

Ramer’s volunteer service and philanthropy activities spanned the United States and beyond. He served his alma mater Lafayette College in Easton, Penn., as a longtime trustee for 30 years, including nine years as board chairman. He served on the board of directors and the executive committee of ORBIS International, a New York City-based charity that operates a flying eye hospital offering modern eye care and surgical techniques to Third World countries. More recently, Ramer served as a member of the board of trustees of Helen Keller International.

As a longtime Los Angeles resident, Ramer was committed to his adopted city. A supporter of arts and education, Ramer served as president and chairman of the Center Theater Group, which manages the Mark Taper Forum and the Ahmanson Theatre, from 1987 to 1997, and as board chair of the California Institute of the Arts from 1996 to 2006. 

Ramer, a longtime member of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), also served as the organization’s treasurer. Ramer had great faith in postwar democracy in the Federal Republic of Germany. He was passionate about the possibilities for a gentler, wiser Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall and in 2000 founded with his wife, Lee, the Lawrence and Lee Ramer Institute for German-Jewish Relations as the cornerstone of the AJC’s office in Berlin. He intended that the Ramer Institute serve as an example of the power of bridge-building and reconciliation. Through the institute, Ramer became well known as a trans-Atlanticist.

In 2000, Ramer was decorated with the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany by President Johannes Rau. In addition, Ramer was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ramer is survived by wife Ina Lee Ramer; children Stephanie Ramer, Susan Ramer-Coleman and Doug Ramer; three grandchildren; and brother Bruce Ramer.

Services and a tribute to Ramer’s life were held at Hillside Memorial Park in Los Angeles on Nov. 5. The family requests that memorial donations be made to Ramer Fund at Lafayette College in Easton, Penn., or the Lawrence and Lee Ramer Fund of the American Jewish Committee, 156 E. 36th St., New York, N.Y.