Cover photo for Ralph Waldo Erskine's Obituary
Ralph Waldo Erskine Profile Photo
1936 Ralph 2024

Ralph Waldo Erskine

December 2, 1936 — June 1, 2024

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Ralph was born in Ohio, before ending up in Grand Junction at a young age. He was the son of Harry C. Erskine and Sophie Gauthier Erskine, both deceased. He attended Grand Junction High School until sometime in his senior year when he decided he had enough! So, upon returning home, his dad wanted to know where he was going to live and how he was going to support himself. Ralph, not having an answer to either question, ended up enlisting in the Navy. That is where he finished his high school education, on the aircraft carrier the USS FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT (CVA-42) for 4 years, with tours in the Mediterranean. Ralph worked for a time at a machine shop, and then was hired by the Grand Junction Fire Department. He spent 31 years with the department retiring as Lieutenant. For at least 20 of those years, he worked at Bratton Window on his off days. He really enjoyed playing fast-pitch softball with the City league in the summer; the team usually was comprised of fireman and Sheriff department officers. He loved wood and the smell of wood. Any project he did at home, he cherished the smell of even a 2x4. He spent hours in the garage building RC Airplanes, sanding the balsa wood, feeling with his fingers, until it was just right. He was perhaps one of the original members of the Grand Junction Modeleers, building and flying those RC planes. Many, many great friends were made through the Modeleers Club. Ralph enjoyed his fish tank, watching the Angelfish tend to their thousands of eggs, and marveling at various other fish babies that would just appear from time to time. Unfortunately, the tank sprung a leak and that was the end of that, but he had been considering the fish tank again just recently. He was also revisiting the good old days of his childhood and the marble shooting contests the kids had. Now-a-days not the contest part, just collecting all the marbles he could find, with the help of a new-found friend who helped him collect many. I expect Las Vegas could also be considered a hobby. Win or lose, he loved that place. Many memories were made there, from the casino host who tapped him on the shoulder and called him by name while he was playing slots, to the sweaty walks up and down the strip in July or August, to the meeting up with family and friends who may also be there at the same time. Ralph valued honesty, accountability, family, and humor. He loved to joke and tease and play with all family, friends, and particularly his grandkids. They brought out the little kid in him. He gave the very best backrubs and tickles any Grampa could give. From nephews and great-nephews, he was Uncle Ralph the Tormenter. Passing on the jokester and pranking gene to his kids, one had him eating a dog treat, but was laughing so hard, the joke was an easy give away. On the softer side, making flower head bands with granddaughters in the backyard and helping any and all climb the tree. He loved vacations to California; love the ocean. On one of our very first trips to California, we ventured to Tijuana with two youngest sons, and took the crazy taxi ride from the border to the town. While in Tijuana, one was about to buy dynamite from a fellow (in an alleyway) but was caught just in time by Ralph. They were tempted by other things the folks across the border were willing to sell to the Gringo kids. He loved playing poker with any family member who could be talked into a game, for hours, while bitching about the Bronco coaching staff; and the shared love for the TV show Goldrush; and the dreams of hitting it big on a scratch ticket. Grampa joking about the only wild things in Alaska being moose, however, after his death was an encounter with 5 bears on a road while bicycling. He loved his kids and grandkids, and worried about each and everyone. He was so very proud of all of them. In the early days he treasured all the time he spent with his cousin Augie, and the trouble they were always managing to get themselves into. The prankster, little kid side of him was further enhanced by his fire family. While not the easiest person to work for (he expected accountability and honesty), it did not prevent him from joking and pranking co-workers, who in return would try to outdo him with something better. So many years with so many men and women of the same mindset of serving their community, but living like siblings, made for a fire-houseful of wise crackers and good-natured mischief. How very honored he was to be invited to the dedication of the new Fire Station 3. He and Buck Taylor were the first to open the Old Station 3. They were treated with an enormous amount of respect, and Ralph was so proud to have his and Buck’s figures on the mural on the wall of the new station (he assumed, and claimed, that the firefighters were Buck and himself). The same humor followed him to customers with Bratton Window, when installing windows, doors, and canopies. He had many believing theirs was his first job, and calls to his boss to make sure he could clean up the mess he made. But also, carefully moving a bird nest that might be in the way of a job he was doing. Somehow, he made friends wherever he went. And people remembered him for his compassion and sense of humor. In all his 87 years, there are many events and memories that will come to each of us. Hopefully, we will be able to chuckle when we remember. Many, many thanks to his primary care family, and to the VA caregivers. Ralph is survived by Mary Anne Fleetwood, spouse and mate, Lance A. (Teresa), Chamane (Doug), Heath (Nikki), Paul (Whitney); 10 grandchildren, 6 + 1 on the way great grandchildren; nieces, nephews, great-nephews and nieces, and great-great nephew and niece. Many who treasured Ralph and will never forget him. He was preceded in death by his parents, sister Cherie VanPortfliet, grandson Lance P. Erskine, nephew Greg McIntire. No service will take place. If so inclined, donations might be made to: Grand Junction Fire Fighters Foundation (gjfffoundation.com); Hope West, 3090 N. 12th St., Grand Junction, CO 81506; or just offer a prayer, hello or kindness to another. Cremation entrusted to: Brown Cremation and Funeral Service.

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