|Notes for Ralph Alfred WILSON Sr.|
| Ralph Alfred Wilson was born about 6:00am on February 24,1907 in Polk County, on the family farm about 5 miles west of Salem, Oregon, and died at 1:41 am March 6,1995 in the hospital at Salem. He was the youngest of the seven children of Frank Walter and Nettie (Lansing) Wilson.|
Having 2 brothers and 4 older sisters, (all of which have predeceased him), and his mother being the 2nd eldest of seven sisters, most in the Salem area, he always claimed that he was smothered by (bossy) mothering women during his early childhood. This maternal influence was counter-balanced by an "earthy" grandfather (a civil war union cavalryman) who tried to teach him all the "dirty" four letter words of a soldier's vocabulary. The women said that fortunately Ralph couldn't talk very plain so most of the words were undecipherable to Sunday company and strangers.
In 1913, at the early age of 6 years, Ralph saw the light, or at least met the light of his life for the next 80-plus years; the John Simmons family moved from Leona, Kansas onto the old Southwick place next to the Frank Wilson farm. Ralph's father, Frank, many times told the story of how he went next day to meet the new neighbors and it was quickly arranged that the Wilsons would furnish a pail of milk to the Simmons' until they could get a cow of their own. John said he'd send Ervin, his 6 yr old son, over each day to get it, but Ralph interjected,"NO, I'll carry it over." Ralph's Dad was "flabbergasted", it definately wasn't Ralph's habit to volunteer for such chores. It soon became clear that Ralph's motive was the excuse to see 4 year old Erma every day. They went through Popcorn grade school and Salem High school together, and Ralph never got over his "crush" on her.
Actually, Ralph, his brother Wilfred and an occassional cousin or two played and grew-up with the Simmons and McCauley children (the McCauleys came west with the Simmons'). Ralph of course was "sweet on" Erma Simmons, and Wilfred eventually married Pauline McCauley. A central part of this young society was the Summit M E Church and the Epworth League. Their Epworth League met at the West Salem Church which at that time shared a minister with Summit and Oak Grove; the minister rode the three church circuit each Sunday on a bicycle over the Eola Hills' gravel roads.
After high school, Ralph "worked out" and farmed for his dad. He soon bought a 1-ton Ford flatbed truck; and many are the tales of him and his brothers (and brothers -in-law) hauling cordwood, hay, gravel, and particularly of racing over the Eola Hills (down Orchard Heights Rd before it was paved) with a load of fruit to get to the head of the line at one of the canneries and back for another load. It was a source of pride with Ralph that he could haul as much fruit in a day with smaller loads and faster roundtrips than his brother-in-law, Ross Clarke, could haul with his big Mack truck; and it was his brag that by delivering more quickly from vine to cannery, his berries or cherries were fresher and "docked" less. It was always a matter of honor with Ralph that the quality of his produce was the best he could do.
Ralph was growing up during the early era of farm mechanization, and had talent for practical mechanics. Neighbors often called him to start or fix a balky engine with tempermental updraft carburators or wet magnetoes. He early became a dedicated - lifelong "Ford Man."
Ralph married Erma Louise Simmons on his 21st birthday, Feb. 24,1928, and celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary with her just 12 days before his death. He always claimed that he was free and his own boss just half of one day. They took a one-week honeymoon through southern Oregon on $20 and in a Model T Ford Coupe borrowed from his brother. They farmed his dad's home place for four years while his father was ill, then rented a farm about a mile south west of Summit for a year from Becky and Jennie Best.
In 1933 they bought the farm, seven miles east of Salem, where Ralph spent the rest of his life and where Erma still lives. Ralph preferred raising grain and seed crops over the work and chores required by livestock, though on occasion he had a few beef, dairy cattle and sheep. He paid for his sons tuition at Willamette Univ. by cutting and hauling logs to the Turner sawmill. He had little patience with fruit or nut orchards, and berry vinyards, though he enjoyed the seasonal work when he was young. He claimed to have eaten a prune or cherry out of every box that he ever loaded onto his truck!
In 1940, he took a job selling Ford tractors and farm equipment in Salem, becoming a partner and sales manager before "retiring" after 10 years to return to farming. The Tractor company years were good to him economically, and he most enjoyed meeting, helping and talking to other farmers, but there was a lot of pressure and stress, and he "missed the soil."
Ralph was a past president of the Oregon State Assn. of Soil Consevation Districts and served on the board of the local SCS Dist. for many years. He ran for the Oregon State Senate and lost on the Democratic ticket; he was happy to lose, but satsfied when he out-polled the rest of the ticket in his Republican district by 400 votes. He was a member of the Masonic lodge and Shrine, a member of the Grange, and the Farmers Union. He was a member of the local Bethel School board for eighteen years.
Ralph was one of Pastor Joe Hardings instruments for building Trinity UM Church; he is a charter member and served several years on the Church boards and building committies.
Ralph listed the three most important things in his life as follows:
to till the soil, his family, and the church. Then with his impish growl,
he'd add "well maybe not in that order."
After retirement, he enjoyed entertaining family and friends at gatherings under the large walnut trees in his backyard, and at the "Crabin Cabin" at Newport, Oregon, fishing out of Yaquina Bay, doing a bit of traveling, and hunting in (or out of) season. One of his driving intrests during this last year has been to get that cabin repaired and fixed up for "another 25 years of fun" and good times.
|Notes for Erma Louise (Spouse 1)|
|Erma's family was devout, strict, closeknit. Erma is 9th generation in descent from Moses Simmons, immigrant, 1621 ship Fortune, and 9th generation from John Alden, 1620 ship Mayflower etc. and 5th generation from Ichabod Simmons, Soldier American Revolution. All this ancestory is in typical traditional Puritanic New England, Mass. & Maine. |
Erma served 45 years on their precinct election board, was a youth leader of the Farmers Union Juniors and other civic activities. Ralph and Erma were instumental in the building of the Trinity Methodist Church at the Four Corners where they are charter members. Ralph served several years on the board of trustees and Erma is very active in the church service groups and womens societies.
|Last Modified 14 Jul 1999||Created 14 Jul 1999 by Willi III (a Macintosh) & Reunion|