Ransom Was Fixture in Pinehurst
Cobbie Lee Ransom Sr. would have celebrated his 97th birthday Sunday with dozens of family and friends at his favorite restaurant.
"My wife said Friday, 'I hate Pop didn't make his birthday,'" his son Harry Ransom said later that day in a telephone interview from his home on Long Island. "We planned a big party for his birthday."
They didn't book a fancy restaurant but had made arrangements instead to have the party at his favorite place to eat.
"I always took him to the Pine Crest, but he enjoyed the Golden Corral more than anyplace else," his son said. "I told him that's where we'd have his 97th birthday dinner."
But Cobbie Ransom died Saturday, Aug. 15. He had become famous as the face of one of the great shops of old Pinehurst. Ransom worked at Razook's for 75 years.
Many celebrations had been held to honor Ransom on his birthday over the years: a parade through the village with him riding in a horse-drawn carriage one year, a surprise party at his favorite Village Market the next.
"When I was 15 and World War I started, I thought I wouldn't live to be 20," he said at the time.
Cobbie Ransom was born between West End and his Taylortown home. As a young man, he worked as a caddy in season and spent summers as a bellman at the Greystone Inn in Roaring Gap.
On Nov. 9, 1931, at 9:30 a.m., he went to work sweeping the steps at Razook's, and stayed. Ransom raised the flags in front of the store every morning, opened all the boxes coming into the store and boxed all the outgoing merchandise. He had been late to work only one day.
"Dad was a few minutes late one day, and Mr. Razook told him he was supposed to be there at 8 o'clock and it was 10 after," his son said. "He was never late again. My dad was the type of person that if he was committed to something, he did it. He used to leave North Carolina in May, arrive in Lake Placid by Memorial Day and stay until the 15th of October."
Hotels shut down, and Pinehurst virtually closed during the summer. Razook's summer store in upstate New York became Cobbie Ransom's summer home as well.
He must have seemed immortal to those who would see him even after Razook's closed its doors. Ransom was nearly always present at Taylortown council meetings, in church -- a fixture of his town as much as he had been one of Pinehurst's best-known and loved personalities.
"His health started to decline about 18 months ago," his son said. "He fell and hurt himself Sunday before Election Day. He was still in the hospital. I put him into rehab -- which he fought -- where he stayed about four weeks. I was there on Dec. 7 to take him out, take him home. My wife and I spent Christmas with him."
The son spent Valentine's Day with his father, not his wife.
"Got my wife flowers and told her, 'I got to get out of here and check on the old man,'" he said. "In June, he had another fall and was in rehab again in June. He was raising so much hell. I ended up going back for Fathers Day."
Now there are memories of the man who sent kids and grandkids through college and graduate schools while he packed and unpacked goods, swept steps, and kept shop.
"Dad was very well-read," Ransom said. "I didn't realize it until I was stationed in Germany, and he came over. He was great at geography. He told me the history of things that transpired in the Rhine area during World War II. He stayed with us in Germany for about two weeks and had an opportunity to travel to Munich, to Vienna, Austria. For him that was a true vacation: to be away from Razook's."
Cobbie Ransom became the very embodiment of the venerable company he served.
"A lot of people thought he was Mr. Razook," his son said.
Ransom's sister Melba Bostic joined her brother at Razook's, where she herself worked over half a century -- going, like her brother, back and forth between Pinehurst and Lake Placid with the seasons. For a time, they worked in the Razook's midtown shop at The Plaza Hotel in New York City.
"For years, Razook's had a store at the Plaza on 58th Street," Harry Ransom said. "I remember one very vivid occasion when I was getting ready to go to Germany.
"My dad asked me if I would bring a station wagon down for Mr. Razook to Pinehurst. That gave me a chance to see dad before I left."
To this day, the son doesn't know if Razook needed the car, or just made up a task to give Cobbie Ransom a chance to see his son.
Harry Ransom remembers his father as a man who would give his best answer to any question, then ask what you thought. He dedicated his earnings to help his family members get their education.
"He made certain that my brother and I had an opportunity to go to college," Harry Ransom said. "Also, he educated my brother's two kids. My brother was Cobbie Ransom, Jr. He is deceased. My niece is a scientist at the National Institute of Health. My nephew is a deputy director of Urban Renewal for the city of Dallas. My nephew had a double master's, and I think he just picked up another master's two or three weeks ago."
Harry Ransom misses his father, though he still seems present.
"I am certainly going to miss him," he said. "But in the house, every time, going into his room, I could see him laying on the bed, where he spent most of the time his last weeks."
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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