Ralph Lome Phillips, 97, died Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, at Gundersen Health System La Crosse.
Ralph was born Aug. 10, 1921, in Beloit, Wis., to Lome and Adeline Phillips. Ralph was the oldest of six children and was a paperboy in his young years, growing up in the deep Depression. He graduated from Beloit High School and was enrolled in ROTC which he was proud of. Ralph married Ruth E. Garber Nov. 22, 1941, in Beloit. After five years, and three young children, he took a job for the Milwaukee Road in Tomah and they moved from the city of Beloit, to a place outside the town of Warrens (where Ruth had grown up). The home and property needed a lot of work, no plumbing or electricity and Ralph and Ruth eventually after lots of work, turned this into a wonderful looking place over the years. Ralph worked for many years for the Milwaukee Road and worked himself up to being the superintendent to the Tomah shops until he retired.
Ralph and his wife, Ruth, both played for many wedding dances in the Warrens and Tomah area. Ralph played the guitar and harmonica, sometimes throwing a little singing in, and Ruth played the accordion and organ. Music was a big part of their life and all their children played in the band.
Ralph dabbled in many skills and became an expert at fixing things. He was always there, ready to help anyone in need. A lot of hard work and years were worked on remodeling their home and making their property look like a park, planting trees, clearing areas, building a windmill and a huge outside fireplace. Ralph did his own plumbing, electrical work, fencing, welding, many wrought iron railings and building a workshop/equipment building, where the old barn was torn down and a building for snowmobiles and one he called “Buffalo Chips Crossing,” where a huge garden was planted. If there was something to be fixed, he’d figure it out. He also dabbled in farming, raising chickens, rabbits, beef cattle, two buffalo and a horse. He had tractors and equipment for his farm work. He always referred to his place as the “farm.” He was an outstanding craftsman, making a lot of furniture and unique wood items that are seen in his children, grandchildren, relatives and friend’s homes and participated in craft shows, sold a lot of wood wind spinners when Cranfest first started. He was a very hard worker and whatever he did had to be pretty much perfect.
In June of this year, both Ralph and Ruth (Garber) Phillips, were recipients of the Oldest Warrens Couple Award, as part of the Warrens Sesquicentennial Celebration, would have been married 77 years this November, awarded a plaque which they were very excited about, enjoying this recognition.
After retirement and realizing they couldn’t keep up with all the work at their “farm,” they moved to Tomah, by the lake for many years, enjoying camping, fishing/ice fishing, going on car, plane, train trips and enjoying family and friends “get togethers,” playing cards and dominoes. He also began collecting many toy banks. They began meeting friends at McDonald’s for coffee almost every day and these friends became very close to him. He built a woodworking building and this is where you would find him out there, designing his own blue prints for what he would make next. He always kept himself busy, doing a lot of crossword puzzles and sudoku.
It was a difficult time for him when he knew it was time to auction off all his woodworking equipment. They then sold their house and moved to a senior living apartment for a couple of years and then to Liberty Village Assisted Living. While there, Ralph enjoyed driving his car to the “Break Room” for breakfast a couple times a week with the “guys.” He loved that car. He spent a lot of time on his computer, emailing family and friends, on Facebook, solving puzzles and games and looking up things. He always amazed people by what he could do on the computer. A 75th wedding anniversary was celebrated in 2016, at the VFW given by their children and spouses, with many relatives and friends attending.
Ralph leaves to share his memories, daughter, Jean (Lee) Carver, Montrose, Minn.; son, Ronald (Carmen) Phillips, Chicago; daughter, Joanne (Pat) Ducklow, LaCrosse; grandchildren, Kevin (Kathi) Carver, Angie (Chris) Neisen, Stacy (Craig) Furtney, Yvonne (Matt) Papirnik, Tania (Dave) Fraser, Brian (Lisa) Ducklow, Brent (Paula) Ducklow, Chad (Kim) Ducklow; great-grandchildren, Ryan, Gracie, Nate, Stephanie, McKenzie, Sarah, Emily, Sofia, Scot, Dylan, Bryant, Cody (fiancé, Chelsea), Amber, Jakob; great-great-grandchild, Landynn; a brother, Richard (Pat )Phillips; a sister, Loretta Birch; sister-in-law, Mary Lou Phillips; and many, many relatives and friends.
Ralph was preceded in death by his wife, Ruth, on July 1, (which was very emotionally hard for him); and his brother, Donald, who died Aug. 2., he was able to attend his brother’s funeral in Beloit. Also preceded Ralph in death were his parents, Lome and Adeline Phillips; his brother Irvin and his wife, Irene; brother, Kenny; brother-in-law, Dave Birch; brother-in-law, LeRoy Garber; great-grandchildren, Samuel Neisen and Thomas Neisen; and many other relatives and friends.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12, at Queen of the Apostle’s Parish at St. Mary’s Church, 303 W. Monroe St., Tomah. Monsignor Richard Gilles will officiate. Visitation will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, at Sonnenburg Family Funeral Home, and again from 9:30 a.m. until time of services Wednesday, Sept. 12, at the church. Burial will be at the Warren Mills Cemetery at a future time.
A few days ago, when he was in the hospital, and he knew his life would be ending soon, he wanted to say to everyone “I’m grateful for all the great family and friends during my lifetime”.