Ralph Davis
Jan 10, 1929 - Jun 15, 2008
by Roger Davis, Son of Ralph

It has been so cool how you model railroaders have come into the shop and told me what you thought of my dad. I knew the man for 56 years, but in my own home, I had a slanted persepective. Knowing how you guys saw him helps me know him better myself.

I like to think about the circumstances a person was born into, who his family were, and what the times were, then cancel out all the givens and I am left with the character of the person.

Ralph was born in the year of the Great Crash of '29, fourth born of 8 kids, in the mountains of western Maryland. His mother's side of the family came to Maryland from Nova Scotia. Ten-year-old Thomas Fatkin's family was shipwrecked on their first attempt to move to Maryland to get coal mining jobs, and 4 of 5 children, plus the mother, died at sea. Thomas's father Charles carried Thomas on his back until they were rescued, and three years later they succeeded at getting to Maryland. Thomas worked in the mines 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and after work he read. He became a school teacher, and was eventually elected to the Maryland State Legislature.

What Dad got from Fatkin, and the Great Depression times of his childhood, were the habits of hard work and frugality. I remember once when I was a kid, he asked how long it took me to wash my hands after using the bathroom. It was less than 10 seconds, so he explained that by turning the hot water handle, I was causing the water heater to turn on, without ever actually getting any hot water. He explained that I was wasting money, and I should only turn on the cold.

When little Ralph was 8 years old, the family was better off than they had ever been. Ralph even had a Red Ryder guitar! Then their house burned, and it was all lost. From that time forward, his mother was emotionally disinclined to keep living in the same house for more than about a year, so they moved around frequently. IIRC, Dad went to 13 different schools. You go to a new school, they are ahead of where your old school was, or they are behind. Either way, you lose out, and Dad always felt he suffered from lack of education. He was a brilliant man, but he realized the value of education.

So, like Thomas Fatkin, he read. He hardly ever read a "story book", besides GUADALCANAL DIARY, but if he needed to perform brain surgery, he would get a couple books, and parse every sentence until he fully comprehended how to do the thing.

Coming Soon: More Links!

Rotten Ralph
More About His Life: Roger's Eulogy
Photos of Ralph and his Family