Area attorney Ralph Rumsey dies

Ralph Spencer Rumsey lived a full and fortunate life. He always had a great story to tell. Here is his story.

Ralph was born on July 9, 1943, in Buffalo, NY, and died on March 11, 2017, in Ann Arbor, MI. He was the son of John Davenport Rumsey, an accomplished Detroit area systems engineer and civic volunteer, and Elizabeth Anne Rumsey Weston, a recognized social services leader for Oakland County and the State of Michigan.

Ralph became a loyal University of Michigan fan while achieving a BBA (1965), an MBA (1966) and a JD (1969). His college band, the Paragons, achieved some notoriety as did the hearse that he bought to get to gigs and rent to fellow students. Through the years he gave the “Cube” a push every time he walked by, still thrilled at the leadership role he played in his Business School class funding contribution.

A 39-year legal career began with an affiliation at Dickinson Wright in Detroit and then with Dobson, Griffin and Barnes in Ann Arbor. In 1973 Ralph formed his own firm with Michael Meade and Robert Magill, who were later joined by Robert Foster and Peter DeLoof. He was briefly of counsel to Butzel Long, Ann Arbor, before the Magill and Rumsey firm was created from which he retired in 2012. Ralph was recognized nationally and internationally for his pioneering expertise in nonprofit, tax-exempt law. He wanted his practice to make a difference in the world and deliberately created a client base that allowed him the satisfaction of providing counsel to the very smallest and the largest charitable organizations. His client list ranged from Great Commission Air to the National Kidney Foundation. Ralph served in leadership roles in numerous related organizations, providing insight through published works, keynote speaking, workshop engagements and appearing as an expert witness. He had looked forward to a much longer career supporting tax exempt groups, whose motivations and variety were endlessly fascinating to him.

Ralph enjoyed volunteer service to the Dexter Township area which was his life-long home after graduation. He served units of government, civic organizations, natural and historical associations and regional and local lake groups. He was proudest, however, of his participation in the volunteer effort that saved the Gerald R. Eddy Discovery Center in the Waterloo State Recreation Area.

Ralph leaves his wife Jo; his sister, Susan; her husband, Ed Howbert; and their children, Jed and Dana; Jo’s parents; her nine brothers and sisters and their spouses; dozens of nieces and nephews and their children; and too many other Nyes and Rumseys to name. He also leaves countless friends who will be telling Ralph stories the rest of their lives, all true. Particular thanks is extended to Paul Nye, Jo’s second in command of Ralph’s care, and stalwart to the very end.

While Ralph lived life abundantly, it was shortened by a long, sometimes brutal battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Though his ending was entirely peaceful, his experience is witness to the dysfunction of a health care system understaffed and ill-trained to deal with this disease.