OBITUARY

Ralph Ray Richardson

October 17, 1915July 22, 2011

RALPH RAY RICHARDSON

Ralph's Biography

Ralph Ray Richardson was born October 17, 1915 in Whitetail, Montana. He was the second child of Frederick and Florence Richardson. Ralph’s dad, Frederick was one of the first to settle in Antelope in 1898 along with two brothers, Robert, Weldon and Maggie, one of his sister’s. Florence settled in Antelope in 1910 from Iowa and taught school at a little country school. Frederick and Florence were married in Glasgow, Montana in 1911. For a period of time Fredrick was working for the border patrol along the Canadian border during the time Ralph was born. In 1918 the family moved back to Antelope to continue farming and is where Ralph and his siblings grew up. Ralph had one older brother Gorden who was 11 months older and a younger sister Sylvia who was 1 ½ years younger. Ralph also had two younger brothers, Fred, 5 years his junior and Douglas, 8 years his junior.

Ralph's father passed away when he was a young boy, just 4years old. There was a flu epidemic in 1918 and 1919 and Ralph's father fell victim to the flu after a cattle drive to Chicago. Ralph’s mother, Florence was pregnant with Fred when her husband passed away. Florence was only 27 years of age with four children. There were those who thought that Florence would not be able to work the farm and take care of her family. They felt she should put her children up for adoption or place them in an orphanage. What they really wanted was the land however those people did not know what a strong willed a person Florence could be. Florence, herself, had lost her parents in a fire in New Jersey. Friends of the family came to New Jersey to bring Florence and her brother back to Iowa. The siblings were separated after being placed in different homes. Florence was never adopted; however she was raised by an older couple whose children were grown. To Florence's good fortune the couple felt it was very important to receive a good education and they made sure she was educated. Because of Florence's history, she would have nothing to do with separating the family. It was a lot of work living on the farm. Hauling and gathering water from the melted snow or in the summer collecting water from the rain barrels. They also gathered cakes of ice from the river once per year to fill the ice house that was built under ground. There transportation was by horseback or sled. Party lines were installed using the top wire of the barb fence for communication. Everyone made sure not to talk about anything that you did not want to become public information. There was the need to put food on the table. They grew chickens for the market and there was the additional task of catching, killing and plucking the chickens before taking them to the neighboring town of Plentywood. A hand pump washer was used for washing clothes. Nothing was an easy job. The family grew wheat and hay. They also mined coal on the property until the springs filled up the Mine and mining was no longer an option. Ralph attended school in Antelope, Montana. He actually stayed out of school for two years so he could work on the farm and help take care of the family. In high school he pursued a course in ground school for prospective pilots.

After graduating high school Ralph perused flying lessons and soloed in a Cub aircraft in his home town of Plentywood in 1935. He applied and was accepted for civilian pilot training in Spokane, Washington in 1938 at the age of 23. They were called the "90 day wonders" because they had 90 days to pass flight school or go to gliders. They flew mostly the Beechcraft C-45. After flight training the United States Army Air Force flight examiner gave check rides to all the 90 pilots including Ralph, although Ralph forgot to fasten his seatbelt he still passed his check ride. He then joined the USAAF and was originally transferred to Randolph Field Air Force base in Texas to train as an instructor. After instructor training Ralph was transferred to Taft Air Force Base in Taft, California just outside Bakersfield. Today Taft Air Force Bass is referred to as Travis Air Force Base. For the next 2 1/2 years Ralph would train new recruits in BT 13 and BT 15 aircraft, 7 hours per day, 5 days per week acquiring 5500 hours of flight time. Against his wishes he was then selected for a special mission, deemed to be "top secret". He soon found himself transferred back to Texas learning to fly gliders and demonstrating dead stick landings.

Ralph was in the 437th TC Group sent to England to await mission orders. The squadron moved to a small airfield North of Paris France. His mission to be was on the night of March 23, 1945. “Operation Varsity”, a one way trip to an area along the Rhine River. It was the first airborne assault onto German soil and the costliest. It was also the largest one day airborne drop and the last major mission that combat gliders flew. This offensive hastened the German retreat and The European war ended the next month.

Ralph's mission was to co-pilot a Waco CG-4A glider holding 15 troops. The troops took off early morning before daylight headed for Weissel, Germany. Over the target, there was smoke and fog obscuring the ground. The tow plane released the glider and soon the enemy was firing. Shortly before touching down they entered ground fog and Ralph was shot in the left leg and knocked unconscious upon landing. When he regained consciousness he found himself in the wreckage of the crashed glider. There was no one in sight. He crawled out of the debris with a gun in each hand and waited in a deserted field with gun fire all around him. That night he was rescue by two medics. He was placed on a stretcher and placed in a jeep with no cover. As he was strapped down on a gurney and all he could do was lay there and watch the bullets fly over his head as the enemy fired at the jeep. The medics would run for cover. When they got back to France he laid in a field for 6 days watching the endless waves of allied planes flying overhead. He thought it was exciting to hear the roar of the planes and artillery. He knew he was in the middle of a war but felt more excited than afraid, “probably because the army doctor kept me so doped up.” After six days in the field he was transferred to South Hampton, London for surgery on his leg and then transferred to Van Nuys, CA to continue his rehabilitation. Ralph spent a total of 16 months convalescing for his gunshot wound. Ralph was medically retired from the USAAF as a Captain in 1946. He received the Purple Heart. In addition, Ralph received the World War II Victory Ribbon, The American Theatre Campaign Ribbon and The European African Middle Eastern Theatre Ribbon with one Bronze Campaign Star. After Ralphs discharge from the hospital, he purchased his pride and joy, a beautiful black AT-6 from the military surplus. He headed to Bremerton to see his sister, Sylvia and her family. In Ralph’s normal fashion he bussed his sister’s and brother-in-law house so they would know to come pick him up at the airport. After a lengthy and graceful display he swung into the Bremerton airport and taxied up to the nearest establishment. As he shut the plane down a tall willowy young woman brazenly approached his aircraft jumped onto his wing and told him the local Sheriff was looking for him, he smiled. She was the chief flight instructor at flying Service and it suddenly dawned on her that Ralph’s skill and poise could figure into her plans for the future.

Gini shortly hired Ralph as a flight instructor. Ralph was very familiar with the flight instructor routine. He settled in to his new job at the Bremerton Airport, bunking with his Sisters family nearby. Ralph’s AT-6 was a two seat aircraft originally. Ralph legally modified his to seat four in tandem. This meant that he could take his sister, Sylvia, husband Boen and put the two kids, David and Gaye in the fourth seat for a total of 5 on board. “Woops”. The five of them made some fun trips in that plane together. Once coming back to Bremerton from California, Ralph saw that he was low on fuel as the sun was disappearing over the horizon. He wisely elected to land at McCord Air Force Base rather than continue home over Puget Sound in the dark. Military Airport personnel did not see anything amiss about an AT 6 landing there-until 5 civilians climbed out and presented themselves in the airport office. They made quite a fuss about having allowed a civilian aircraft to land at the base unannounced. The next morning the base commander had changed his tune, treated the family like visiting brass and got them underway with adequate fuel. Ralph made good use of his 4 seat modified AT 6 carrying people here and there around the northwest.

During his instructing days Ralph had another scare. He was giving flight instruction to a pilot in a Cessna T50 ‘Bamboo Bomber’. One of the two engines was shut down practicing single engine approaches. (In today’s world single engine approaches with one engine actually shutdown is only done in a simulator .) As they came around for an approach to land at Bremerton, the student’s glide path was a bit low but Ralph waited for him to bring the nose up and add a bit of power on the operating engine. It was too little, too late and the pilot suddenly turned the airplane the wrong direction away from the runway, they clipped a stump and went into the trees. After the crash, both men slammed up against the aircraft windshield. Ralph smelled smoke and felt heat. He said “HEY, WEVE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE”. So out they clamored through the shattered windshield. Ralph drug himself behind a stump to escape the heat of the burning aircraft. Shortly the airport manager came along in his pickup and Ralph climbed in. It was back to the hospital for another two months for Ralph.

In 1949, after two years of instructing Ralph yearned to put his superior skills to better use and landed a job flying crop dusters for Bruce Combs at the Yakima Airport. For Combs he flew a Travel Air biplane converted to a sprayer as well as the old standard Stearman with the 220 Continental engine.

In 1950 Ralph married Gini and they started Richardson’s Airway, which was a crop dusting business and in 1951 they started Richardson Aviation, which was a flight school and FBO. They flew from the Yakima airport on the south side of the field. Ralph would fly the crop dusters and Gini would run the office and operate the flying school. Ralph bought surplus planes from the military in the early years after the war. He bought a fleet of TBM World War II bombers and converted them into spraying planes, which he flew as crop dusters in Washington, Maine, Canada, and even sprayed the entire crop of olive trees for the country of Greece. He also had a fleet of open cockpit Stearmans which were later exchanged for an Ag Wagon and later the Snow (Thrust commander). Being a crop duster means getting up at 2-3AM to be flying at first light, when the winds are calm. One night some stacked bales of hay had been moved into his flight path so he had to make a last minute adjustment, Ralph and the Snow found themselves nose down in the ground after hitting some power lines Ralph was lucky again and walked away however the airplane was totaled. Ralph and Uncle Lindy rebuilt that airplane and Ralph continued to crop dust in that airplane until he was 70. He had an incredible 36 years of crop dusting. Aunt Burnie use to say Ralph had nine lives and I would have to agree. He made a very comfortable living for his family doing what was fun for him and he loved to fly, all those challenges just made it that more exciting.

Over the years Ralph and Gini owned a variety of business including a radio station, dry cleaners, the Yakima Ice Arena, The Equestrian Center of Cedar Downs, and an Air taxi business. Ralph and Gini built their house on a hill west of Yakima that overlooked the Yakima airport. Later when their daughter was flying the Cessna 402 on the air cargo route, she would flash her landing lights after takeoff around 8 o’clock at night so Ralph would know she was in the air. Usually the next day Jill would not be surprised to hear a comment like "you were a little late". I think he said that just about every morning followed by a big smile.

Ralph had one daughter, Jill and many nieces and nephews. Ralph and Gini trained many of them to fly. Jill and his niece, Debbie both became airline pilots for Alaska Airlines. One of Ralph’s highlights was when he got to ride in the cockpit jump seat with Jill in the MD-80 and later flew from SEA to PHX with Jill and Debbie piloting the aircraft. It was Debbie’s last trip on the MD and Jill’s second to last trip in the MD before they transited to the b-737 in 2007.

Ralph lost his wife Gini in 1990. He was fortunate to find another lovely lady, Fran. For 14 years they had a great friendship and did a lot of traveling however he lost Fran in 2004.

July 22, 2011 Ralph lost his battle with life. He had 95 years of excitement. He was a tease, winking at the girls until the end. He had such a good attitude, a soft spot in his heart. Ralph loved to travel and see new places. Whether in one of his airplanes or traveling with family or friends, he visited many corners of the world.

We will miss Ralph’s fun sense of humor, easy-going nature and his quick and easy smile. He was loved by many and will be missed.

Ralph's Obituary

Ralph Ray Richardson of Yakima, Washington passed July 22, 2011 at Memorial Hospital with his family at his side.

Ralph Ray Richardson was born October 17, 1915 in Whitetail, Montana. He was the second child of Frederick and Florence Richardson. The family soon moved and homesteaded in Antelope where Ralph grew up and graduated from Antelope high school in 1936.

Ralph perused flying lessons and was accepted for civilian pilot training in Spokane, Washington in 1938 at the age of 23. He then joined the USAAF and was an instructor for 2 ½ years at Taft Air Force Base in Taft, California. Ralph would train new recruits in BT 13 and BT 15 aircraft, 7 hours per day, 5 days per week acquiring 5500 hours of flight time. Against his wishes he was then selected for a special mission, deemed to be "top secret" flying gliders.

Ralph was in the 437th TC Group sent to England to await mission orders. His mission to be was on the night of March 23, 1945. "Operation Varsity". It was the first airborne assault onto German soil and the costliest.

Ralph's flew a Waco CG-4A glider holding 15 troops. The troops takeoff was in early morning before daylight headed for Weissel, Germany. Shortly before touching down they entered ground fog and Ralph was shot in the left leg and knocked unconscious upon landing. When he regained consciousness he found himself in the wreckage of the crashed glider. Ralph was rescued by two medics and spent a total of 16 months convalescing for his gunshot wound. Ralph was medically retired from the USAAF as a Captain in July 1946.

After the war he headed to Bremerton to live with his sister and her family. He was hired by a flight school at Kitsap County airport and it was there he met Gini Stover, his future wife. Ralph and Gini were married December 16, 1950 and settled in the Yakima Valley. Together they started Richardson's Airway, a crop-dusting business in the northwest and later expanding to Canada and Greece. They also started Richardson Aviation which was the flight school and air taxi service. He had an incredible 36 years of flying crop dusters, until the age of 70 and operated his business for 42 years.

Ralph and Gini also owned the Yakima Ice Arena for several years and the Equestrian Center of Cedar Downs located in Maple Valley, Washington. Ralph had one daughter, Jill and many nieces and nephews. Ralph and Gini trained Jill and his niece, Debbie to fly and they both became airline pilots for Alaska Airlines to follow in their footsteps.

Ralph was member of Yakima Country Club, St. Michael's Episcopal Church, Formal Dance Club, Charter member of Continental Dance Club, Washington Pilot's Association, Washington State Aviation Assn., VFW, Mason and Shriner.

Ralph was preceded in death by his wife Gini Stover Richardson, sister Sylvia Covey, brothers Gorden Richardson, Frederick Richardson and Douglas Johnson.

Ralph is survived by his daughter Jill R Brown, nieces Cindy Ard (John), Sandy Payment, Debbie Waingrow (Dan), Gaye Covey, Sally Richardson, Ruth Richardson, Maggie Hitchcock (Rodney), Gale Richardson, Joyce Meagher (Terry), Beth Rettke (Roger), Robin Lyde (Robert). Nephews Dave Covey (Florence), Lee Richardson (Holly), Neal Richardson (Balaly)

He had 95 years of excitement. He was a tease, winking at the girls until the end. He had such a good attitude, a soft spot in his heart. He was loved by many and will be greatly missed!.

Memorial services will be held at 1 PM on August 28th at the McAllister Museum of Aviation in Yakima. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to McAllister Museum of Aviation 2008 S. 16th Ave Yakima WA, 98903 phone 509-457-4933, email McAllister@nwinfonet. Inurnment will be at Terrace Heights Memorial Park.

Special thank you to Ellens House in Yakima for taking such good care of Dad during the last few months of his life. Online guest book is at www.dignitymemorial.com

Arrangements under the direction of Keith & Keith Funeral Home, Yakima, WA.

Services

  • Ralph Ray Richardson Memorial Sunday, August 28, 2011
REMEMBERING

Ralph Ray Richardson

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Vickie Tanasse

August 30, 2011

It was my pleasure to know Ralph. What a great guy. I remember a time when we went boating at Vantage. All of us girls were in the boat with Ralph. Gini and mom were on shore. He said, "OK girls, hold on!" WE DID! He drove the boat around and around in circles, making big waves. We all laughed and laughed. Gini was not happy, but we were all laughing so hard, she couldn't be angry. It was one of many fun days with Uncle Ralph. I will miss his great smile and the twinkle in his eye!! With love to family. Vickie Tanasse

Art Murphey

August 29, 2011

What can be said about Ralph? This Can...I went with Ralph to help him cut his acreage and he wanted to sit on the tractor and get it started. Well as Father Time would have it Ralph just wasn't as agile as he once was. So as he would have it I got on the tractor and started it up. After being refreshed on the accessories again I thought I was on my own to get to cuttin'. Well I was wrong. Here goes Ralph over to his "Estate Cart". He backs it up and pulls in front of the mower. Over the lull of the engine I heard a faint "Follow Me" with the beckoning wave of his hand. Yep sure enough Ralph had a certain way to mow the fields and he had me follow him as he laid out the pattern. So you see, Ralph got to mow even if he wasn't able to climb up on his tractor anymore. Something he loved to do and if there was a way to do something, Ralph would find it. Even in an unconventional way. "'Cause that's just the type of man he was." Even if it couldn't be done He would find a way to do it. So long Ralph, peaceful journey!!!

Al & Emma Patino

August 29, 2011

Jill,
What a beautiful tribute to your dad! We just want to tell you what a pleasure it was for us to know your father. He was an awesome neighbor and such a loving, kind man. We enjoyed our visits with him and were blessed to be a part of his life. We loved him dearly and will miss his wonderful hugs and his contagious smile.

Jill, we really believe that GOD puts people together for a reason. He put your dad in our life and we will treasure the times we had together. Thank you for sharing him with us. He aways shared his love for you with stories about you and what you were doing. His eyes lit up with pride and joy for his one and only daughter. You were the apple of his eye. Please keep in touch. We would love to hear how you're doing. Blessings to you!

Al, Emma, & Aunt Bonnie

Eileen Nehl

August 28, 2011

Ralph was the one of the nicest men I've known. When I think of Ralph I see his friendly face smiling, I remember his easy-going manner -- he was a kind and giving man. He played an important part of my family's life - taught my brothers how to fly, kept the ice going so we could skate, crop dusted over our farmland, he was a decent man, a mentor, and friend. I certainly will miss him, as I do Gini and all the fond memories I shared with the Richardsons and Lindeman's, in their homes, at the Yakima Ice Arena and at Richardson's Aviation. Ralph lived a long, couragous and adventurous life. He was a dedicated husband and father, a hard working self-made man, and a hero and mentor to many. It was good to view all the photos. Dave Covey is right.. Everyone should have an Uncle Ralph! :) God bless and keep you, Ralph. You will never be forgotten.

Love and prayers to the family,
Eileen Nehl and family xo

Cindy Ard

August 27, 2011

It is hard for me to think of you gone. You have been with us my whole life, spent holidays, vacations, jobs, births, deaths, marriages. I will miss you, your teasing smile and great sense of humor. I love you.

Diane Ollie McLean

August 27, 2011

I was so privileged to live with Ralph, Gini and Jill right after I graduated from high school. I was a nanny for Jill when she was 3 and 4 and grew to love the entire family. My favorite memory of Ralph is that he always had a smile (even when I attempted to cook frog legs for dinner). I talk often about fond memories of that period of time in my life. These two years had such a positive influence on me, and I am so grateful for the many wonderful experiences I had while in their home. Ralph's legacy definitely lives on in those whose lives he has touched!

Diane Ollie McLean

Jim & Susie Maloof

August 27, 2011

Dear Jill...Just a note to let you know that Susie & I are thinking of you and wishing you well as you mourn the loss of your dad...Thank you for including all the photos of your family as you were growing up...Even though we didn't know your dad personally, it really helped us to see what a terrific human being he was. We love you & Mel very much and are looking forward to getting together with you both before you head back to the desert...// jim & susie

Laura Bethel

August 26, 2011

These pictures are a wonderful tribute to Ralph! What an exciting life he lived. I on the otherhand remember eating ice cream (considerably more than Gini would have served) with Ralph and Jill before bed. Ralph always made me feel welcome at the Richardson home....so I stayed there alot! Ralph's great smile and gentle style will long be remembered. He will be missed, but still admired.

Cindy Clark

August 26, 2011

What A GREAT man It was an HONOR to care for such a wonderful person. Thank you Jill. I will cherish his memories. I will miss him dearly , his stories and of course, his contagious smile.

Evan and Patti Julber

August 25, 2011

So sad for your loss Jill. The photos are just an incredible tribute to your father -- I have tears in my eyes. Our best to you, be strong and thankful you had many, many years with your dad.