Ralph Denison Ebbott passed away on May 30 at age 93. He died from age related and Alzheimer’s related issues, not directly connected to the CoVid19 virus. However, the isolation of the last few months was hard on this sociable, friendly man. Thankfully his family was able to be with him the last few days of his life.
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Ralph was born in 1927 in Edgerton, Wisconsin. He was a city kid whose father owned an agricultural equipment dealership. Ralph was the youngest of five children (his siblings pre-deceased him). He excelled at math and music, as well as words and language, and was awarded an oboe scholarship to UW Madison. He joined the SAE fraternity and was a lifelong Badger supporter. Ralph met Elizabeth Adams of Solon, Iowa and remained on campus an extra year to stay close to her. He graduated with an MBA in accounting in 1949; Ralph and Liz married in 1950. They were well matched and had an excellent life together. She pushed him to travel and explore. He shared his world of opera and music with her. They traveled and explored as a couple for several years, then started their family and had four children in less than six years. The family went on canoe trips, backpacking, scouting adventures, and took painfully long trips in the family station wagon. Ralph also made sure all of the kids had music lessons and played an instrument in band.
After a stint at Arthur Andersen where he received his CPA, Ralph was hired by 3M in 1955 and remained a loyal and dedicated employee until his retirement after 34 years. In 1964, Ralph helped integrate a 3M acquisition in Milan, Italy while Liz dealt with four kids under the age of nine in a foreign country for a year. We’re not sure who had the harder job. Back in Minnesota, the family was happy to be a 3M home, and the Birchwood house was full of tape, sandpaper, and post-its. We were all very proud when Dad became the Treasurer of 3M in 1977 (his signature was on the paychecks!). Being a humble Midwesterner, Ralph always said he was “in finance” when asked about his career.
Ralph generously shared his good fortune with others. He served on the Board of Children’s Home Society for many years. He supported many causes with both his time and money. Higher education was a priority, and his church and his community were very important to him.
After retirement, Ralph and Liz explored the world. Dad was always happy to strike up conversations with others and he liked the educational aspect of seeing new places. Exotic trips included Papua New Guinea, Easter Island, and the Trans-Siberian railroad. Ralph served as the travel agent for some memorable vacations with their friends. Ralph and Liz also began a tradition of Christmas trips for the entire family. As the family expanded with spouses and grandkids, these trips continued.
Liz passed away in 1998. This was a hard time for Ralph. Figuring out how to live his life without her was a challenge he never wanted to face. He maintained his opera connections, continued to play bridge, and eventually he began exploring again. All of the kids visited Birchwood frequently and Dad visited them too. The final family Christmas trip in 2015 saw 19 family members enjoying the sun in Mexico.
In the 2010’s, Ralph’s tremendous intellect began to falter and his short term memory no longer functioned. It was hard to see the mental decline of the most intelligent man we knew. Eventually, Alzheimer’s meant he had to move to a memory care facility. While the original Ralph was fading, this new version of Ralph was also an amazing human being. He continued to be kind and considerate, unfailingly polite to all. When asked “How are you today?” his sincere answer was “My day is better because I’m talking to you.” He retained his thoughtfulness, was often clever, and could still help out on crossword puzzle clues.
Dad’s recipe for a good life would include daily grapefruit, marriage to a strong woman, gin gimlets until age 80, bridge until age 90, opera at any age, frequent family gatherings, church in regular doses, naps as often as possible, and being kind to others no matter what. He was a gentleman to the end.
Ralph’s remaining family includes sons Andrew (Kate) of Chicago, Douglas (Sony) of Vanderhoof, BC, and Kendrick (Jan) of Plymouth, WI and daughter Alison (Bill Hasan) of Port Townsend, WA. He also leaves 10 grandchildren: Scott (Jordan), Eric (Chelsea); Nary, Visal, Maria, Elizabeth, Leander; Sarah, Rebecca, Cooper; and 1 great grandchild (Jasmine). The family wishes to thank Parkview United Church of Christ for their support of Ralph over many years. Sue Huebl was Ralph’s trusted caregiver; her kindness and warmth were much appreciated by all.
A service honoring Ralph’s life will be scheduled when CoVid19 conditions permit us all to gather and share our fond memories and stories. Online condolences and updates will be available at honsafamilyfuneral.com. Donations can be made to either Alzheimer research (philanthropymayoclinic.org) or Opera for the Young (ofty.org).