Ramona McCallister Central Oregonian
For those who know Gary and Ramona Romine, they also know that whenever you see one, you will also see the other.
During their years in Prineville as the owners of Erickson’s Department Store, and the years since they retired their store—the couple has been an integral part of the Prineville community.
Gary and Ramona Romine closed their Department store approximately 25 years ago. They decided that once they closed the store, they would stay busy.
Gary pointed out some advice that he gives to people who are getting ready to retire.
“One thing we’ve always believed in anyway, is to stay busy and have an activity for every day,” said Gary.
“I always give them just a little advice. Have a project every day. You have got to stay busy, even if it only lasts a couple of hours. Do something. It’s so easy to find things to do in our community and volunteer work is always out there.”
He added that there are lots of clubs, including Kiwanis and other service clubs. Gary and Ramona get a lot of happiness in seeing new people getting involved in the community. He pointed out projects like Christmas in the Pines and the fairgrounds activities.
Gary has been in Kiwanis for almost 60 years.
“It’s a great organization. I just can’t say enough about what Kiwanis does for our community in so many different ways, and helping our young people throughout the community.”
Currently, Gary is really excited about the Splash Pad project. Initially, it seemed too big for the group to do alone, but two grants were forthcoming and the support just kept coming.
“There have been untold businesses and individuals who have jumped in to help finance and make the project move forward,” said Gary.
The Romines have always valued community and family above everything else. In addition, they have been a team for the past 65 years. Although Ramona isn’t a member of Kiwanis, she is always by Gary’s side.
“I couldn’t get by without him. We just do things together,” Ramona emphasized. “We just work together and do whatever needs to be done. Our kids come and we just enjoy everybody coming.”
Gary and Ramona have also stayed active in the Chamber of Commerce, before and after retirement.
Recently, the Romines had the after Chamber After Hours party at their residence. They have attended the Chamber After Hours whenever possible, and this particular evening fell on their 65th wedding anniversary.
Kim Daniels, Executive Director for the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce, surprised them with an anniversary cake, complete with their favorite photo taken together.
“For those that know the Romines well, hosting gatherings, and being surrounded by people is in their DNA,” indicated Daniels.
“When they chose to have the Chamber After Hours event at their home this June, I knew it would be a success and a reunion for the many who have frequented their happy hours and get-togethers in the past. Nearly 75 people showed up, and stayed late into the evening. If you were to ask the Romines, their common response is that they are blessed to have a home to host events and friends to gather around. In reality, it is those who have shared moments with Gary and Ramona that are the blessed ones.”
All the years that the Romines had the Erickson’s Department Store, they hired many young people in their store.
He said that they have run into several of these people who are now adults, who worked for them over the years.
“I run into so many young people who had worked for us in the past, and to see the success they have enjoyed over their lives. It’s so thrilling, so many of them can relate something that happened at the store—–how they learned work ethics, how to be on time, and how to be friendly to people.”
Gary and Ramona also worked with the youth who worked for them to correctly count back change. Ramona added that other little things stayed with these young people, like wrapping gifts.
Gary’s recounted the many things he enjoys and loves about the community that he has called home his entire life.
“It’s such a great place to live, it’s a nice, small community. We have so many great parks and amenities that are so great for families and young people to enjoy. That is a wonderful thing.”
“By that I mean that if something needs to be done, such a project or undertaking or somebody needs special help, the community jumps in to help that come to a happy conclusion. There are so many examples that have happened over the years.”
Gary gave the examples of the Pioneer Memorial Hospital, the football stadium, and the current splash park.
Ramona also elaborated on her response to people who are new or visiting the community.
“When we meet new people, they always say that ‘we are so happy to come to Prineville. It’s a beautiful place to be and there is lots to do in the parks.’ We are just grateful to have them, and we do what we can to help them.”‘
She referred to a recent encounter with someone they met in Bend, who said Prineville is a wonderful place and they like to visit.
Gary shared an important lesson he learned during his military career. His Battalion Commander gave him some important advice.
“Lieutenant, sometimes best interests are served by not winning.”
“I remembered that all these years,” recalled Gary. “It’s good advice to husbands and wives. Sometimes best interests are served by not winning.”