At nearly 100 years old, these two Alpha Upsilon brothers know the meaning of lifelong friendship and brotherhood
We tell pledges that Sigma Chi builds lifelong friendships. Maybe it sinks in and maybe it doesn’t. But perhaps no one exemplifies this truth more than Ron Winger, 97 years old, and Jim McAleer, 95 years old, two Alpha Upsilon brothers who are still best friends.
“He’s an amazing guy,” says Ron about his lifelong brother still in touch with each other. They grew up together, enlisted in WWII together and then pledged USC Sigma Chi at about the same time. “He’s a lifelong friend who’s led an exciting life.”
They have warm memories of being undergrads in Sigma Chi in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s and living in the new chapter house later called The Old White Hunting Lodge that sat on the location of the present chapter house.
“It was like going home,” Jim says of that chapter house. It was the “real deal.” Big and spacious, a large upstairs and kitchen in an “old style house” and a big basement for parties, lots of parties.
“Oh boy!” says Jim with a laugh. “Our entertainment budget was $250 for parties and stuff. And we spent all $250 on the booze.” Funny the things we remember.
“I had just come out of the service,” says Ron. “I was having a good time in life with a bunch of the guys.”
Ron became Consul in 1950, was presented the Exemplar Award that same year and was one of the guys who got to burn the mortgage from that old house. Jim, in his awe shucks way of speaking, says “I’ve not been that good of a Sig. I’ve not been a good Sig.” Yet his voice seems to brighten every time he talks about Sigma Chi. When a Sig called him on the phone, he happily blurted as he approached the phone from halfway across the room “In hoc signo vinces!” Then chuckled with delight.
Most of the Alpha Upsilon men, and other fraternities at that time, were coming out of military service and into college using the GI Bill that provided free or nearly free tuition aimed at getting America back on track after a world at war. The transition from war back into the life of a fraternity man surrounded by fun-loving brothers and sorority girls was abrupt. Some brothers of the era remember strict rules and the occasional fist kept things in line.
Ron went on to run a development company before retiring in Pebble Beach and Jim retired from the yacht brokerage business preceded by a life on the sea and now lives in Newport Beach. “He’s fearless,” says Ron. “He does anything that has to be done.” Jim has sailed the seas in the Navy, on a fishing boat, as a yachtsman who has sailed from the east coast, through the Panama Canal to the west coast, and more.
Ron met John Wayne once in a crowd. These days, he’s as busy as ever and attends the Monterey Bay luncheons now and then. He was presented a Sigma Chi Military Service Pin in 2022.
There are a number of Alpha Upsilon Sigs just reaching into their 90's. Hal Ramser, Jr., for example is still active in Sigma Chi, a Life Loyal Sig and donating to the fraternity to this day. In fact, Hal's father, brother and two sons are AU Sigs. He fondly remembers the cook Alberta. Another great memory: "We all went to see John Wayne while he was dying of lung cancer." Hal is just old enough to remember the upper classmen Winger and McAleer.
Next time you talk to a pledge, tell them about Ron and Jim and the young guy Hal.
LEFT TO RIGHT: 96-year-old Ron Winger who was elected Consul; 95-year-old Jim McAleer. The two AU Sigs have been best friends for nearly a century.
Ron Winger, Jim McAleer and Hal Ramser, Jr., all fondly remember their Alpha Upsilon chapter house, sometimes called "The Old White Hunting Lodge," used from about 1948 to 1960 when the current house was built on the same site.
SECOND FROM LEFT: That's 97-year-old Ron Winger at a recent Monterey Bay Sig Alumni Luncheon. Photo courtesy Lane Wallace, alumni chapter president.
92-year-old Hal Ramser, Jr. remembers the upper classmen Winger and McAleer. Still involved with Sigma Chi,Ramser's father, brother and two sons are AU Sigs.