Born and raised in Woodstock, Va., he was a 1975 graduate of Central High School who earned a civil engineering degree "with distinction" at Virginia Military Institute. He then served as a first lieutenant in the Army Reserves' transportation corps.
After work at the Wilson T. Ballard engineering firm in Owings Mills, he practiced civil engineering at Whitman, Requardt and Associates from 1983 to 1991. He then briefly ran his own landscaping business before joining the Army Corps of Engineers. He was placed in charge of military master planning for Aberdeen Proving Ground and Fort Detrick. He also had three assignments in Europe and rose to become chief of master planning in its European district. He worked from Italy to Scotland and had a second home in Frankfurt, Germany.
"He was a very professional, well-versed project manager. He was able to meet any challenge. He was easygoing and nothing ever rattled him," said Frank Cirincione, chief of master planning in the Corps' Baltimore District. "He was a mentor to younger people as well."
Mr. Cirincione, who lives in Parkton, recalled Mr. Ramey's ability to work under pressure. "It would be at the end of our fiscal year, and Paul would be here at midnight completing a project," he said.
His last project was as a manager for a museum at the Carlisle Barracks in Carlisle, Pa. He planned the Soldiers Experience Gallery.
Friends said that in 1987 Mr. Ramey, who had been working with AIDS awareness and prevention groups, joined others to help those who were HIV-positive, had often lost their jobs and were facing eviction. He joined the board of AIDS Action Baltimore.
"Paul was a wonderful person, loving, sweet, steady and sincere," said Lynda Dee, an attorney who was also an AIDS Action founder. "He was grounded with good, common sense. I will always remember his engineering advice. 'Build it straight, build it strong.'"
Friends recalled the early days of the organization.
"AIDS Action was a sorta guerrilla organization, and Paul was in at its beginning stages," said Pat Moran, a casting director who lives in Mount Vernon. "It was so personal then. People were coming to us. They were losing their jobs and their homes. They didn't have money for phone bills or groceries."
She said that Mr. Ramey was a "calming force" in the group's formative years.
"Everybody was in the dark and furious," she said. "People were saying, 'Do we wait for more people to die?'"
She said that Mr. Ramey was level-headed and "got the jobs done."
She recalled his participation in AIDS marches in Washington, D.C., and with the Names Quilt Project, which listed those who had died.
Peg Arbaugh, a friend who lives in Catonsville, recalled Mr. Ramey's artistic side. "He was a creative man. He wrote beautifully and was a gifted painter. He did a series of industrial scenes in Europe." She also said he could go into second-hand shop, retrieve a piece of furniture and repair it.
His life partner of 18 years, Dietmar Staab, said, "We met the very first day he was in Germany. It was the Fourth of July in Frankfurt. I introduced him to my family and friends and they all loved him. He picked up the German language without going to school or taking a class. At the end, his German was almost perfect."
Beginning 1996, Mr. Ramey lived in Frankfurt while working with the Corps of Engineers. He enjoyed cooking and shopping for ingredients at local markets. He also bicycled on mountain trails.
"The plan for us was to live in Frankfurt and in Hampden," Mr. Staab said. "We liked both cultures, the European and the American."
A life celebration will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Cylburn Arboretum Visitor Center, 4915 Greenspring Ave.
In addition to his life partner, survivors include a brother, John Ramey of Front Royal, Va., and a sister, Roberta Rush of Woodstock, Va.