Ramona Van Court
White Gables Dachshunds
Ramona Van Court was admired as a breeder of top-winning Dachshunds and a highly respected all-breed judge. Famed for her organizational skills and sense of style, she was also the driving force responsible for some of the era’s most elegant shows.
“She was a real lady,” says Robin Gianopoulos, who met Ramona when she began breeding Dachshunds under the Stonybrook prefix in 1954.
“She really knew dogs and was a great mentor to me, as well as a good friend. Back then she was Ramona Lancaster Andrews. She had Smooths and one Wire Mini, and she was very successful.” Her biggest winner was Ch. Aristo Von Marienlust. His record included 10 BIS, 47 Groups, BOB at DCA in 1950, and Group First at Westminster in 1951.
Ramona hailed from Westbury, Long Island where her family had bred Airedales and Greyhounds. By 1938, Dachshunds ranked as AKC’s fourth most popular breed, and she finished her first Dachshund in 1939. “She started in Dachshunds with Josef and Maria Mehrer’s Marienlust dogs,” says Gianopoulos. The Mehrers came to America in 1923 and originally bred Wire Fox Terriers and German Shepherd Dogs in Forest Hills, Queens before switching to Dachshunds. They had a formidable reputation in the breed by 1936 when they founded their legendary Marienlust kennels in West Hempstead.
Ramona’s second husband, Albert Van Court, also worked with Marienlust stock, breeding under the White Gables prefix with his wife Miriam. White Gables was founded in the early 1920s and enjoyed great success on the West Coast throughout the 1940s and ’50s. Their big winners included White Gables Basil ROMX, a red Standard Smooth sired by Ch. Cavalier v Marienlust out of Ch. White Gables Mehitabel. “Ramona and Miriam were close friends,” says Gianopoulos, “and a few years after Miriam’s death she married Kippy.” Their 1954 wedding at the Wilton, Conn., home of Jeanette Cross, breeder of the Hardway Dachshunds, qualified as the year’s Dachshund social event. “She had a pretty happy marriage with Kippy. He had quite a bit of money, and she was able to acquire some really good dogs. They moved to his house on Windsor Boulevard in Los Angeles. They had their dogs there and continued breeding under the White Gables prefix.”
Her biggest winner was an Aristo son, Ch. White Gables Ristocrat, a red Smooth co-owned and handled by Jerry Rigden. “Ristocrat had a very straight shoulder,” says Gianopoulos, “but he did a lot of big winning.” Number One Dachshund in 1961 and 1962, his wins included Group First at the Garden in 1961. “She used Jerry Rigden but also showed her own dogs, and she showed Ristocrat at the Garden that night. It was different then, you could show your own dogs and win.”
White Gables produced many notable dogs in the 1960s, but Ramona was becoming better known for her ability to stage glorious, well-run shows. She not only had great management skills, every event was marked by style. “She was very involved with Westbury Kennel Association, which was a very exclusive club,” says Gianopoulos. “She always saw to it that Dachshunds had a huge entry. She initiated a luncheon for Dachshund exhibitors to get them in, and really made it classy with extras touches like beautiful flowers.” She stayed active in Westbury after moving to California but also started building up the Kennel Club of Beverly Hills show. Ramona helped to found the Dachshund Association of Long Island in 1950, and served as a director of the Dachshund Club of America.
Both Kippy and Ramona were well-known judges prior to their marriage. Famed for his courtly manners and dog sense, Gianopoulos remembers Kippy as “very kind and very popular.” In the 1950s they became one of the era’s most popular husband/wife judging teams, accepting assignments that took them all over the world. “They were very influential. Judges who didn’t know what they were doing always watched the Van Courts and followed suit.” Beginning in 1958, Ramona was regularly invited to judge at Westminster and Kippy became Chairman of Westminster in 1969. Gianopoulos clearly recalls Ramona judging Dachshunds at the Garden that year — during a legendary snowstorm. She gave BOV to Knocknagree Lucifer, handled by Dotty Hardy for Mrs. Stalter. Teddy Young showed his littermate Satan, and those brothers were highly competitive. “Teddy was trying to dirty handle me and Ramona saw him blocking my dog. She came down that long line and pulled me right out, put me at the front and gave me BOS.”
Kippy died shortly after Ramona judged the Group at the Garden in 1970. After his death she remarried, moved to Florida and resumed her hectic judging schedule. She died suddenly while waiting at the airport on the way to a show in 1983.