RIDGELY -- About 50 people gathered at the Ridgely Diner Jan. 16 for a luncheon to honor a man who has dedicated much of the past 13 years to preserving Ridgely's history.

Andrew "Tommy" Rampmeyer, a former town resident, has combed through every issue of the old Caroline Sun newspaper, which was printed from 1867 to 1959, photocopying any news regarding Ridgely.

Rampmeyer also interviewed dozens of town residents and former elected officials, traveling to seven states in the process, and recorded their personal stories.

He compiled all the stories, photos and news clippings in 12 books, printing one per year, the final one printed in time for the recent Christmas season.

The result is a series of books considered invaluable by town and county historians alike, and for his efforts, he was presented with two plaques at the luncheon, one from the Ridgely commissioners and one from the Ridgely Historical Society.

Town commissioners also declared Jan. 16, 2013, to be Tommy Rampmeyer Day.

"There's just so much in those books, right at your fingertips," said Cathy Schwab, a member of the Ridgely Historical Society. "It's very enlightening."

J.O.K. Walsh, president of the Caroline County Historical Society, said he has read every page of all 12 volumes, bookmarking multiple entries along the way.

"Thank you for making the history of Ridgely accessible to everyone," Walsh said.

Rampmeyer, who now lives in Trappe with his wife, Nellie, started the project with Elsie Ebling, who passed away in 2010.

After the plaques were presented, Rampmeyer reminisced about the 14 filing cabinets he has filled with Ridgely history, the creative writing class he took to improve his skills so he could better record spoken memories and the support of his family.

"I'd like to thank Nellie, for putting up with me being wrapped up in history for so long," Rampmeyer said.

Rampmeyer said his older daughter, Lisa, proofread 11 volumes, while his younger daughter, Nancy, did so for the final volume.

Rampmeyer did not make a penny off his work. The town paid for about 200 copies of each volume to be printed, and then Rampmeyer sold them at cost, returning to the town its initial cost.

"Ridgely has changed a lot," Rampmeyer said. "People tip now. I was told by a guy who once had a shoe-shining business here he never got a tip, but every year, someone has given me a tip after the book was published."

For this last one, Rampmeyer said he got two tips, as well as two hugs and a kiss.

Rick Schwab, also a member of the Ridgely Historical Society, said the historical society consulted the books while researching three interpretive signs that now stand in the railroad park in the middle of town.

Two more, based on history Rampmeyer dug up, are on the way, including one for the town hall, which was once a hospital.

Rampmeyer is a fixture at town events, said Rick Schwab. He sets up his memorabilia in the telephone exchange building in the park during events like Ole Time Ridgely Days and the fall festival, and he sold each year's new printing at town hall following Christmas parades.

The luncheon was held at the Ridgely Diner because Rampmeyer is such a fan of the diner's Reuben sandwich, Rick Schwab said.

Remaining copies of several issues are still available for sale. The first 11 volumes are $10 each; a different printer produced the final volume, which costs $12.

The books are available at town hall and Ridgely Pharmacy & Gifts.

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