Remembering Ted and Joanna, Our Friends and Colleagues

We take one more opportunity to honor our absent friends.


The Key Peninsula community lost two family members when Ted Ralston and Joanna Gormly were murdered in May 2020. It was the beginning of the pandemic, and we hardly knew how to react, what to do with ourselves, or how to treat one another.

The first memorial came in just a day, spontaneously, with 60 or 70 people standing outside the civic center in Vaughn, six feet apart, sharing moments and memories and plastic cups of single malt whisky, Ted’s preferred beverage. A formal service came over a year later at the same place, attended by a couple hundred mourners.

Many in the community still have — and will always have — strong feelings and fond memories about Ted and Joanna. We thought it would be appropriate to express some of them here one last time.

Bruce Macdonald:

My mind often drifts back to a night that captures my attachment to life here on the Key. A group of us sat around an imaginary fire, smoked cigars and sipped fine whisky. We were protecting the civic center fireworks stand overnight from the hordes in Key Center. For the first time, for me, Ted began to reveal some of his history. His part in the SALT negotiations, working for Sen. Warren Magnuson, taking guitar lessons, and piloting a Cessna. Why did I not know these things? Well, I thought, there will be many more nights and much more whisky. But there wasn’t. (See “An Ode to Volunteering” by Ted Ralston, August 2019.)

Cort and Karen Montague:

We were privileged to have Ted and Joanna as our nearby neighbors since 2005. They were smart, fun, kind and generous people. Sitting around a campfire with a cocktail, Ted would never run out of entertaining stories. Joanna, more reserved, was very wise and insightful. They had such love for their family and were incredibly devoted to helping make their lives better. The classiest of couples. We miss them.

Norm and Britta Brones:

Ted and Joanna were friends and family to us, as were Joanna’s parents. The Gormly home and beach was our second home in many ways since the 1970s. We miss them in so many and random ways. The Gormly family substantial birthday cake with lots of butter icing. Ted’s soups. Scrabble on the Vaughn spit after rowing across. Tea from delicate Russian cups. Bike rides up 100 Step Hill. Elaborate scotch tastings. Sunsets and fires on the beach terrace. Esoteric discussions on history, politics and philosophy. So much more that we can’t fully express or explain.

Anna Brones and Luc Revel:

Going through a stack of papers recently, we found an old birthday card from Ted and Joanna. In typical style, it was signed with a sweet note from Joanna and a joke from Ted (OK, more of an eye-roll joke). This was often the dynamic, and we remarked at how quintessential “Ted and Joanna” this card was, their personalities perfectly captured on paper. These annual missives, diligently sent every single birthday whether our mailing address was at the Vaughn post office or somewhere farther flung, were a reminder of a deep and constant friendship that was loving, supportive and full of laughter.

Don Swensen:

The deaths of Ted and Joanna were not only a personal loss to me and many others, but a huge loss to the KP community as a whole. Their commitment and dedication to issues important to the betterment of our community is well known and the hole left by their passing will remain hard to fill for a long time, if ever.

Jeff Frederick:

My favorite memory of the two of them was at a Friday night at the Blend. Ted had been playing with the band and they were on a break. The two of us were sitting on the bench outside and he was sneaking a smoke. We were talking about the Seahawks, the ridiculousness of politics, life, the usual. Joanna arrived late and was walking up out of the dark when Ted noticed her mid-drag. He quickly put out the cigarette and mumbled, “Uh-oh,” followed closely by her laughing and calling him a bad boy. They talked a few minutes, laughed some more, and then went in together. It was the look in their eyes, the playfulness, and my realization that they adored each other. 

Larry Seaquist:

I miss their example of meaningful lives lived fully, step after thoughtful step, one day’s challenge and the next day’s joy always met with integrity and encouragement. Joanna was famous among my political campaign volunteers for her gourmet-menu meals served from an improvised field kitchen. Ted was continually inviting people to gather at the Blend for some blended perspectives on the issues of the day. They were, indeed, model citizens.

Dave Gillespie:

Ted and Joanna extravagantly invested their time, money and heart into their family. They were also devoted to their friends, and their friends to them. They enjoyed making music, Joanna recently releasing her inner singer at the Blend. She was a fine example of still waters running deep — reserved, with delightful flashes of exuberance. Ted wasn’t just a friend, he was the best kind of friend. The kind you read about and wish you had.

Mark Easton:

Ted and I worked together at MCC, the micro-electronics and computer technology corporation, which touched off the artificial intelligence boom. We were responsible for monitoring advanced technology around the world. The CIA studied us as a model for how civilian technology intelligence could be gathered and disseminated. Ted was a brilliant and versatile analyst and thinker. Everyone, from our boss Admiral Inman, through the ranks of some of the most brilliant people in computing and electronics, mourns the loss of this fine man.

John Kirry:

The lives of Ted and Joanna meant a great deal to me and many other people in the community. Ted and I met in junior high and were best friends for 60 years. He was an only child and became like another brother in my larger family. In 1969 I was the best man at Ted and Joanna’s wedding; in 1970 he was the best man at mine. We enjoyed a great many common interests like bad golf, hydroplanes, great road trips, and flying. On what would have been Ted’s 73rd birthday, I was honored to pilot the airplane that took Ted on his last flight, when we scattered the remainder of Ted’s ashes over his beloved Vaughn Bay.

Sue Dixon:

Joanna and I had a weekend at the ocean, and we went into a gift shop that had many types of small, beautiful stones with healing properties. We were there a long time selecting some. She was looking for stones to give her grandson specific strengths to help him with his countless struggles. It was like we were weaving a spell with these stones to make heart changes in ourselves and others. Joanna never failed to be thoughtful and kind to others. I loved being with her.

David Tirr:

I first met Ted at Queen’s College, Oxford. He had come to study Russian history and I was writing a thesis on the great migrations in Dark Age Europe. Our common interest in the beginnings of modern Europe brought us together, but it was really Ted’s personality — quiet, friendly, cosmopolitan but unassuming, the very opposite of the “brash American” of European folklore — which cemented our friendship. I got to know Joanna, too, when I visited them at the cottage they had rented. Despite living at opposite ends of the hemisphere, we managed to meet in a number of different places. In Brussels, when he visited with Sen. Leahy, and where my wife and I still live (my daughters fondly remember Ted’s pancakes). In Washington, D.C., when my work took me stateside. In 1979 Ted and I took a few days off to drive down as far as Charleston, a trip where I learned more about life in America than I had before or since.

Watching what has been happening on the wider world stage but also knowing the dreadful fate reserved for Ted and Joanna, anyone would be tempted to follow the example of the late Roman aristocrats: civilized people who reacted to the collapse of society by withdrawing, even as the barbarians hammered at the gates. But that was not Ted and Joanna’s way. They would always have wanted to be active, right to the very end.

Read more about Ted and Joanna’s lives at “A Song for Ted and Joanna,” KP News, July 2020.