"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ralph E. Williams RIP - father, music man

Ralph Williams with "Sandy"
We have been hearing for a long time that "the World War II generation is leaving us." And then I'd think "oh yes, but we still have Dad."
That was going to have to change sometime. We lost my father, Ralph E. Williams, on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. Destiny had taken its course. We all have to die sometime.
My father Ralph served in the Pacific Theater in World War II. Eventually these veterans will dwindle in number just as we saw with the World War I veterans, to where their presence will be a novelty.
We all wish these wars hadn't been necessary. My generation was scarred by the Viet Nam War. Last year I lost a cousin, Norman Ohlson of Grass Valley, CA, who was a decorated Viet Nam War veteran.
World War II was the so-called "good war." It's an unfortunate term of course. War is the worst of man's failings. The Allies had to straighten out a world seemingly gone mad. Just think of all those servicemen who didn't survive and weren't able to resume normal life back home. Let's think of them and pray often.
Click on the permalink below to read Dad's obituary from Pedersen Funeral Home, Morris.
Click on the permalink below to read a profile of my dad written in 2000 by Liz Morrison.
Click on the permalink below to read about Dad taking the UMM men's chorus to the Seattle World's Fair in 1962.
Click on the permalink below to read about Dad taking the UMM men's chorus to the New York World's Fair in 1964.
My father was fortunate to survive the war and to later survive and thrive after major heart surgery in the Twin Cities. He had a five-vessel heart bypass operation. I remember taking my mom to go get him, and seeing him lying fully clothed on a bed, all set to go and with his usual energy. God bless Dr. John Stock for guiding him through all that.
My father was in pretty urgent need of the procedure. I later learned he was in some fear about not making it to the operation. Not only did he make it, he went on to live nearly 30 years more.
Toward the end he was struggling in many of the ways associated with advanced age. His communication skills became limited. But as someone who was around him a lot, I can say he was aware.
I have felt somewhat lost and disoriented since he left us. A caregiver is aware of a pretty extensive "checklist" each day. By habit I'm accustomed to doing certain things at certain times. There's emptiness now. Tonight (Wednesday, Feb. 6) is the visitation.
My mother and I have stayed pretty composed up until now. I think this is due to our realization that "Dad's time had come." I remember Jesse Ventura once saying that God has a plan for everyone to die at a certain time, and there's nothing you can do about it.
It seems so long ago we first came to Morris. The first thing I remember about UMM is the "circle drive." The campus was phasing out of its WCSA chapter. We were coming on board with the prestigious University of Minnesota, which my father had already been serving on the St. Paul campus. So he was already a University veteran.
He established the music program at the University of Minnesota-Morris. He did more than was technically required of him. He had me hang around rehearsals a lot which maybe wasn't the best thing. I'm not sure how a babysitter would have handled me. I probably had some ADHD issues.
I remember going downstairs at Edson Hall with a stick that had a little magnet attached to the end, and "fishing out" some Coke bottle caps with pictures of Minnesota Vikings players on them, from the pop machine.
I was imbued with the idea that the liberal arts, UMM's stock in trade, were the most special academic calling. Unfortunately I never really had the tools to go through that kind of academic program. My talents were "spotty." Because of my own limitations I developed conflicted feelings about UMM. That's unfortunate.
I have decided that the best way to get along with the UMM community is to just "do your own thing" well, and they'll respect you. You needn't try to show you can function on their turf or speak their language. Just be yourself.
It seems long ago that my father retired. Everyone should have such a long and rich retirement.
Little by little he had to make concessions to age. He finally had to stop driving. But we kept his beloved Lincoln Town Car. Kudos to the gang at Heartland Motor Company in Morris. My father enjoyed having morning coffee there and chatting with friends such as Jack Brown.
We can all chuckle as we recall when a certain family member began requiring Depend underwear. With Dad, it was after the memorial program for Ray Lammers at the UMM HFA. He had difficulty making it all the way through. We all probably feel a little self-conscious when first purchasing a package of Depends. But we get over that quickly.
One by one we make these adjustments as age advances. Some we fail to make quite as soon as we should. There is no clear line to be drawn on some of these matters.
I remember when we first purchased a walker and later a "transport" (a wheelchair with small wheels). We're thankful our transport was handy at church one Sunday when Tommy Tomlin had to be escorted out on an emergency basis. Tommy later told us he was in need of a pacemaker. It's nice to see him looking so stable now.
My father remained stable for a very long time. I guess my mom and I felt that if we just took one day at a time, maybe our status quo would just go on forever. Of course it never does.
The funeral is tomorrow (Thursday). Then we'll embark on that flurry of affairs closing out my father's mortal life.
My father will be in heaven having coffee, I suspect, with old neighbor Les Lindor with whom he'd go to Willie's with their official Willie's coffee cups.
Les died just a few months ago. We visited him regularly when he was at Skyview, then the Courage Cottage and finally West Wind Village. I remember Les talking about WWV like he would dread going there, which is understandable, but there always seems to be acceptance when the time comes. Les ended up liking his home at WWV.
My father and Les struggled with limitations of advancing age. As my mother would say, they're "in a better place" now.
My mom and I attended church the morning after Dad died. Pastor Paul Erdal was a little surprised seeing us there because I'm sure he felt we'd be exhausted and drained. But we couldn't just sit at home alone. It was nice having the company of our church brethren at the service and at coffee hour.
Perhaps my father Ralph is in heaven waving his musical baton and with an assemblage of talented musicians in front of him. That was his second favorite "home." His favorite was "home" home. God bless his memory. Thanks Dad.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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