Ramon Criss contributed in many, many ways
Business partners and friends fondly remember Ramon Criss, El Dorado Inc.’s first elected president, who died in May at the age of 82.
Criss, an area entrepreneur and philanthropist, had a long track record of helping the El Dorado and Butler County communities through service and charitable contributions.
Friends said Criss loved crunching numbers, always computing business calculations the old-fashioned way, by hand. He made decisions quickly and firmly, despite any objections or obstacles. And behind his seemingly tough exterior, more than one man said, he had the softest of hearts.
“Every day of his life, Ramon thought about what is best for this community,” said David Sundgren, owner of SunGroup Real Estate and Appraisals.
Criss and his wife, Betty, enjoyed life in Butler County from the time they were married in 1980 until his death.
Criss spent the bulk of his career running Lewis & West, Inc., in El Dorado. With Ted Dankert and Bob Lane, he began Prairieland Enterprises, owning and managing property in the area.
The reaches of his charitable giving are immeasurable.
Through his involvement as president of El Dorado Inc. in 1988 and 1989, Criss was instrumental in bringing the El Dorado Correctional Facility to the city. The prison broke ground in 1990 and brought hundreds of jobs to the area.
Together with former Kansas Gov. Mike Hayden, Criss helped to establish the Governor’s One-Shot Turkey Hunt in 1987, which annually brings notable business people to El Dorado. The event reflects Criss' love for the outdoors and commitment to habitat preservation.
“I think it’s given us a lot of visibility, business and connections,” Sundgren said. “People don’t realize it’s impact collectively.”
In 1999, Criss, Dankert and Lane discussed and later purchased the El Dorado Country Club, investing in its appearance and services.
“Once Ramon decided he was going to do something, he was pretty much going to do it,” Lane said. “If he wanted something, he wasn’t going to let anything stand in his way.”
Dankert and Criss sold the renamed Prairie Trials Golf and Country Club to the City of El Dorado in 2010.
Through their various business dealings over more than 30 years, Dankert spent a great deal of time with Criss.
“Ramon was an individualist with pretty strong ideas,” Dankert said. “Even if his ideas didn’t always agree with mine, in the course of friendly conversation we always came to an agreement. We were good for each other. I had good ideas, and he did, too. He was a good partner.”
Lane first became acquainted with Criss in the 1970s, when they would play golf and cards together socially.
“I will miss just seeing him and talking with him a little bit,” Lane said, noting that Ramon and wife Betty frequented the new El Dorado McDonald’s location after its 2016 rebuild. “I enjoyed sitting down and having some good conversation; we were just two old guys talking about the good old days.”
Friends noted Ramon’s charitable involvement with El Dorado, Inc., Butler Community College athletics, 4-H, the establishment of the El Dorado YMCA, Susan B. Allen Memorial Hospital and many other positive causes.
“For the most part, if you had a good project and if you could go and show him the benefit of the project, then he would partake in it,” Lane said. “Most of the time, he could see the reason in things.”
Dankert noted his contribution to El Dorado in the form of housing development.
“Barbara and I will miss him as a partner, and we will miss him as a friend,” Dankert said. “We will miss his significant contribution to the well-being of the area, and that is part of Ramon’s character that people will be talking about for a long time.”