MY BROTHER, RALPH
by Donna Schoen Ward
Ralph Andrew Schoen is blessed with loving and supportive siblings, Donna, David and Lori. Ralph is the youngest. He has a sister-in-law, Deb, brother-in-law, Rick, 6 nieces and nephews and 7 great nieces and nephews. He is #22 out of 24 cousins on his dad’s side of the family and #9 of 9 cousins on his mother’s side. He was born in Hartford, CT and moved to Willingboro, NJ when he was 4 years old.
Ralph makes friends easily. He has a host of loving and supportive friendships that go back 10, 20, 30 and more than 40 years. They are his family also. He goes on wine tours, scuba diving, dining out and other memorable events with them. He goes on vacations with them to his beloved Myrtle Beach, the Poconos and other locations.
Ralph has been the happy parent to seven dearly loved dogs, all ones that needed homes. At Christmas he puts up their stockings with their names on his stair rail to their memories and he has photos of them around his home. Currently he and Timmy are best buddies. They adore each other.
Ralph graduated from Burlington County Vocational School and worked as an auto mechanic for 20 years. He still takes his vehicle for repairs to one of his employers. He worked for Channel Lumber, Rickel Home Center and Home Depot (23 years) where he made life-long friends. He was very appreciated at all his jobs as a valuable, reliable and trustworthy employee.
He was a volunteer EMT for Riverside and Delran emergency squads for almost 25 years. He worked for ambulance services in addition to his full time jobs. He loved being an EMT and was an extremely qualified and loving attendant. He learned rescue scuba diving. When he retired from the squad, he decided to become a master diver. At age 50 he was certified! A tremendous accomplishment in itself, and especially for someone his age. He LOVED scuba diving and teaching scuba diving.
Ralph is an excellent self-taught cook. He loves his air fryer, cast iron skillets and grill. He enjoys making up new recipes. He really likes cooking lasagna for his Home Depot co-workers. He freezes a lot of food, even olive oil with his homegrown herbs in ice cube trays.
Ralph is an excellent gardener. In his tiny town-house back yard, he grows cherry tomatoes, peppers, chili peppers and lots of herbs. I and co-workers are grateful recipients of his abundant harvests all summer and fall.
Ralph is an anonymous supporter of Lola’s pantry in Rancocas Village. When he shops at Acme, he adds groceries to bring to the bin at Home Depot to be delivered to Lola’s. He has never told anyone except me about this.
Ralph likes music. His Jeep radio is tuned to classical at all times. He particularly likes piano music and blues. He loves fishing, camping and being outdoors. As a teen, he enjoyed sketching. He made numerous artworks that he and I framed. I love having those in my home.
Two coincidences happened at Home Depot. He was working in the rental department where people renting machines have to show their drivers’ licenses. One time it was someone who lived in the house in Garfield East in Willingboro where he grew up! Another time it was someone who lived in the house he lived in as a child in Newington, CT!
Ralph was named for his maternal grandfather, Ralph Andrew Vokes. Years ago, I came upon something our Papa signed his name to. It’s uncanny how the “Ralph A.” signatures resemble each other, almost identical. He and I are amazed at that! Ralph is proud to bear his grandfather’s name even though he didn’t know him since he was born after Papa’s death.
Ralph is fortunate to have no regrets. He lives a life of faith, service, friendship and hard work.
Ralph is my “little brother”. But in my recent situation, he became my “big brother”. Even though he worked long, hard hours, he supported me faithfully. We also were phone buddies. For years and years, whenever he had a chance, he would call. We’d be on the phone for 5, 6, 8 hours just as if we were visiting each other for the day. We talked about everything. What a blessing!
With greatest love to Ralph; who is survived by his siblings: Donna Ward, Dave (Deb) Schoen, and Lori (Rick) Powell; 6 nieces; nephews; and 7 great nieces and nephews and his dog Timmy who now has a loving home.