Ralph started volunteering at the Hudson River Maritime Museum in the mid-1990s. He was on the museum board for at least one year, but where he really left his mark was in the building and growing of the museum over the past twenty years as a hands-on volunteer.
Ralph was a dairy farmer. He was not afraid of hard work, and because of the nature of that profession, he was proficient in carpentry, welding, and electrical work, not to mention the thousands of small things necessary to keep the farm going. When he retired from farming, he brought these skills to the museum. Nearly every structure on the museum campus, including the docks and bulkhead, reflects his thought and work, be it building, installing, fixing, moving or electrifying. But what impressed us most were his problem-solving abilities. When someone was confronted with a difficult task, and was about to make an ill-advised decision, Ralph would calmly say, “Well… you could try it that way, but that is not how I would do it” and proceed to find an excellent solution, safely getting the job done without bruising any egos.
Ralph was a quiet man with a wry sense of humor. He didn’t have much patience for the spotlight. In fact, he’d probably think a public article like this one, all about him, was a waste of time. But it isn’t.
Ralph continued to work at the museum well into the last month of his life. His final project was a dust collector for the Riverport Wooden Boat School which, as usual, works to perfection. When someone like Ralph dies, we are reminded just how lucky we were to have spent time with him and learn from him. His legacy will live on at the museum, from the darkest nooks and crannies of the museum to the best floating docks on the Rondout. Next time you’re at the museum and you appreciate something built or working well, take some time to thank Ralph, because he probably had a hand in it. We say thank you all the time.
Thanks Ralph, for everything.
The Board, staff, and volunteers of the HRMM