Ralph Malcolm Titcomb

January 15, 1927April 26, 2020

Ralph Malcolm Titcomb died peacefully in his East Sandwich home on Sunday, April 26 th with his wife of sixty eight years by his side, surrounded by family members. Ralph was born in Houlton, Maine during a blizzard on January 15, 1927 to Orie Nevers Titcomb and Gladys Brown Titcomb. He grew up on a potato farm in Littleton, Aroostook County, Maine. As a child, Ralph attended a one-room schoolhouse, and had fond memories of riding to class through the snow in a horse-drawn sled with a wood stove for heat. Ralph left high school early to join the U.S. Merchant Marine at the end of World War II and served as a radio operator on a Liberty Ship. He later served in the US Army during the Korean War and attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Ralph attended the University of Maine, which held a special place in his heart. He earned a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and met the love of his life, Nancy Ericksen, on a blind date at a university football game. Newly married, Ralph and Nancy began their family on campus, bringing the first of their eight children home to their student apartment.

After graduating, Ralph began a career in nuclear engineering, a new industry at the time. He worked first for General Electric at the Knolls Atomic Power Lab in Niskayuna, New York and went on to work on the installation of the nuclear reactor for the submarine, USS Narwhal, at the Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut. When Ralph’s job with GE brought him to work at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth in 1969, he, his wife, and children settled into their home in East Sandwich, Massachusetts.

Ralph discovered a love for antiquarian books after his children unearthed a collection of old papers and books tucked away in the barn when they were living in Canterbury, Connecticut. This discovery led to the opening (in their spare time) of a small bookstore adjacent to their home fifty two years ago. The bookstore became Ralph and Nancy’s full-time endeavor after Ralph’s retirement from his career in engineering. His sons, Ted and Paul, crafted the three story barn that houses the bookshop as it is today as well as a life-size statue of a colonial man. In recent years, Ralph could be found sitting in a chair outside, greeting customers with his radiant smile and striking up conversations, his face lighting up with any mention of the state of Maine. Ralph was a fifty year active member of First Lutheran Church in West Barnstable. He also volunteered with his wife every week through the Chaplain’s Office at Cape Cod Hospital. When not at home, Ralph loved to travel with his beloved wife; a favorite journey was exploring England by canal boat. They also traveled to ancient cultural sites in Greece, Turkey, China, and the U.K. Ralph was a gentle man; the words “wait until your father gets home” never held much sway with his eight children. A loving grandfather, he will be remembered for bouncing each new grandchild on his knee while singing the song his own grandfather sang to him as a young boy. Teaching by example, he touched the lives of many with honesty, humbleness, and gentle kindness. He was predeceased by sister Florence Eaton and brothers Edward Payson Titcomb and John Titcomb. He is survived by his wife Nancy Ericksen Titcomb and their eight children: Vicky Titcomb and husband William Beardsley, Ted Titcomb and wife Dorsey Johnson, Wendy Titcomb Klein and husband Michael, Paul Titcomb, Sara Titcomb McDermott and husband Thomas, Andrew Ericksen Titcomb and wife Geraldine, Amy Titcomb Conway and husband Jonathan, and Nancy Titcomb Ockers and husband Matthew. His twenty-one grandchildren and one great grandchild also survive him: Daniel Klein, Peter Klein, James Uminowicz and his wife Tracey, Sophie Klein Greenfield and her husband Tyrone and daughter Nadia, Benjamin Titcomb, Paige Titcomb, Eliza McDermott, Molly McDermott, Payson Titcomb and his wife Rosie, Claire Titcomb, Helen Titcomb, Rae Titcomb, Abbie Titcomb, Jane Conway, Timothy Titcomb, Eleanor Titcomb, Jay Titcomb, Dylan Conway, Adam Ockers, Maeve Conway, and David Ockers. The Titcomb family would like to extend their gratitude to VNA Hospice, which provided excellent home care that allowed Ralph to remain comfortably at home with his family.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to First Lutheran Church in West Barnstable to spread the love of God’s word, and to the Thornton Burgess Society Green Briar Nature Center in East Sandwich to teach the love of the natural world. To send online condolences, please visit

Due to the coronavirus, there will be a memorial celebration at a later date.


Ralph Malcolm Titcomb

have a memory or condolence to add?

Diane Babbitt

May 5, 2020

Nancy and family my deepest sympathy to you all. Ralph was always the most supportive father and always of quiet but great strength. It was my privilege to know him. Diane Babbitt

Kathryn Eident

May 5, 2020

We were so sorry to hear of Ralph's passing. We are keeping him and his family in our thoughts, with a special hug for Vicky. With love, Kathryn (Eident) & Douglas Berube

Susan Raidy-Klein

May 5, 2020

I am deeply saddened by Ralph’s passing and offer my love and sympathy to his wonderful family who have carried on and deepened Ralph’s timeless devotion to the world of books and knowledge. Ralph, along with my late friend, Ben Muse were my mentors in the life of book selling for Bluestocking Books. They not only modeled the business but also the joys of sharing the treasures of books with all those who find value in the written word.

Shannon Thomas

May 5, 2020

I moved to MA from CA 3 years ago and discovered Titcomb’s while exploring the cape for the first time. As a book lover, I frequently take the drive from Marshfield to Sandwich to purchase my books at Titcomb’s because of its charm and the friendliness of the staff. Whenever someone comes to visit from CA, Titcomb’s is a required stop on the obligatory visit to Cape Cod.
I regret I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Titcomb, but it is clear he leaves a wonderful legacy and family. Learning of his life will make my visits to that beautiful little book store even more special.
Please accept my sincere condolences.
Shannon Thomas

Corinne Lilie

May 4, 2020

I have fond memories of my chats with Ralph on the front bench of the bookstore. I'm very saddened and know that Nancy and her family are surrounded by friendship and love that will bring much comfort.

Corinne Lilie
Bookstore Knitters Member

Walter & Ida Fagnant

May 3, 2020

We are sending our deepest sympathy to the Titcomb family, Walter & Ida Fagnant

Miguel Usina Silva

May 3, 2020

My condolences go out to the entire Titcomb Family. In October I had a very pleasant and extended talk with Mr. Titcomb about some of his accomplishments during his life at the bookstore in East Sandwich. He was a very cordial man that lived a very blessed and productive life. A hero that was part of Cape Cod and America.

Cynthia Symmonds

May 3, 2020

My sister, Gerrie is married to Andrew Titcomb, one of Ralph and Nancy's sons. So over the years we have had opportunities to spend some time at the Sandwich "compound". Our memories of Ralph were that of a kind, generous and charming man who put his wife and family first in every aspect of his life. I can remember sharing steamed clams out on the patio and cracking some cold beers, and downing a meal which was prepared in unison by the entire Titcomb family while the grandchildren, which were many, froliced in the pool. One time, we were included in a Titcomb Country Square dance party in a big barn with tons of food and hilarity and Ralph and Nancy even had a dance "caller" so that we
all had a chance to try out our dancing skills young and old. There were times if my sister, Gerrie, from California was visiting her Titcomb inlaws in Sandwich, they would tell her she was welcome to invite me so I would take the bus from NH, and after enjoying the authentic Titcomb hospitality, Ralph would go unlock the book store and Gerrie and I would stay up until all hours looking at old and rare books and magazines and then stumble in to find Ralph and Nancy still up for a cup of tea and conversation. I know that his beloved wife of many years, Nancy was holding his hand when he passed and had not left his side through his final days. They made a handsome and fabulous couple, proof of their love their large and unique family. Although Ralph will be missed by many, he legacy and spirit will continue to fill the Sandwich homestead with the warmth he left behind and the many good times still to come in his honor. Sincerely, Cindy and Mike Symmonds, New Hampshire

Suzanne O'Keeffe

May 3, 2020

Ralph was a fine person. So fortunate that he came to the Cape & brought his family & his love of books. He was kind & gentle & smart with a sense of humor. I’m so sorry for your loss. Suzanne

Joanne Dermont

May 3, 2020

Dear Nancy and Family,
Joe and I have very fond memories of buying great books from Ralph and talking with him for hours about everything under the sun.
I loved collecting Thornton Burgess books and our little book-show we used to have for the Thornton Burgess Society. I still have all the 1st editions in great dust jackets and the fabulous miniature books. What fun we had. We miss living in the Cape area dearly. We now live on-a river the flows into the Delaware River between the Catskills and the Poconos 4 miles from the PA , NY border.
Our oldest daughter Amy died over 3 years ago, Amber is a Professor at Rice University, Jared lives in Greenwich , CT and works in NYC. He doesn’t plan on going into the city for a very long time.Luckily he can afford to do so.
We loved Ralph and your beautiful family and often think of all the fun we had with Ralph.
Joseph and Joanne Dermont 💝