In Memory of




Obituary for William Harland Ralph

WYOMING, DE - William “Bill” Harland Ralph passed away on Thursday, December 22, 2022, at Christiana Hospital after a brief stay in the ICU and Hospice Care.
Bill was born on July 17, 1928, in Rock Creek, Ohio, to Grace Marie (Parker) and Joseph Richey Ralph, and grew up on a farm in rural Ashtabula, Ohio.
In addition to his parents, Bill was preceded in death by two brothers – Melvin and John (both of whom served in the Air Force); a sister Josephine (who belonged to the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps); and two grandchildren (Kimo Ralph and Christopher Van Drunen).

On his 16th birthday in 1944, young Bill requested his father’s signature so he could join the war effort. His dad refused, possibly because of his own nearly fatal wounding during WWI. In 1946, 18-year-old Bill enlisted in the Army Air Corps, and began training as an aircraft engine mechanic after basic training. He quickly transitioned from working on aircraft to flying them as a flight engineer. His first assignment was flying the B-29 Superfortress. From Kadena Field in Okinawa, Bill flew 68 combat missions in Korea, on a painted B-29 called “The Outlaw” (featuring the actress Jane Russell). The crew received spot promotions, and 22-year-old Bill became decorated Master Sergeant Ralph.

Bill began flying newer, more modern airplanes: the B-50, the B-36, and the KC-97 (his favorite). For many years he flew the tankers that refueled the B-52 bomber fleet, and was a vaunted crew member of the Strategic Air Command (SAC). He spent many 3-month tours in exotic northern climes, and week after week sitting in “alert” status in SAC “mole holes.”
Bill’s career in SAC ended with the retirement of the KC-97s and their reciprocating engines. He then embarked on a new phase of his career: flying transport aircraft in MAC (Military Airlift Command), with the jet-powered C-141A Starlifter at Dover AFB, until his retirement after 22 years of Active Duty service. Barely retired, Bill was hired as a Civil Service/Reserve employee, and picked up where he left off, flying the C-141s again. Dover AFB later traded its Starlifters for the C5A Galaxy aircraft, and Bill flew the C5As until near to his second retirement at age 60. During the transport phase of his career, he flew a total of 68 missions to Vietnam. By the end of his incredible amount of flying, Bill’s total accumulation of flying hours hit an impressive 15,000 hours in MAC transport alone, took him to 5 of the 7 continents, and countries too numerous to mention. Along the way were duty assignments in San Antonio, TX; Eglin Field, FL; Roswell Army Air Field, NM; Ellsworth AFB, SD; Castle AFB, CA; Lockbourne AFB, OH; Selfridge AFB, MI; and, Dover AFB.

An avid hunter and fisherman his entire life, Bill especially enjoyed the Delaware Bay as captain of his boat “Mi$$ Fortune.” He knew the bay well, and loved taking family and friends fishing. He made all of his tackle and snelled his own hooks. People watched in amazement as he filleted the full coolers of fish in the boat. But, he always considered his most important “catches” the deer that had been caught in high tide, and 3 very fortunate men whose boat capsized in a bad storm in July, 1976!

Bill was a longtime parishioner of Holy Cross Church in Dover. He also was a member of The Civil War Roundtable, the Korean War Veterans Association, and The Longstreet Society.
Most importantly, Bill was a man of utmost integrity. He was a hard-working, patriotic, sacrificing, gentle, kind, loving, and wonderful husband, dad, “Papa”, “Poppy” and friend.
Bill is survived by his wife of 67 years, the former Rose Mary R. Dolan; sisters-in-law, JoAnn Ralph (Melvin), and Carol Ralph (John); son, Alex Mitich of Camden; son, James (Peggy O’Brien) of Magnolia; daughter, Mari O’Koren (Tony) of Williamsport, PA; daughter, Grace Van Drunen (Ron Rucker) of Harrington; 7 grandchildren: Julianne Cross (Michael) of Wilmington; Crystle Ralph of Tampa, FL; Tony O’Koren of Williamsport, PA; Elizabeth Kunder (Ashley) of Wyoming; Anita Eckard of Phoenix, AZ; Emily O’Koren-McNabb (Ryan) of Durham, NC; and Andrew Van Drunen of Harrington; 8 (almost 9) great-grandchildren: Gavin Cross; Gerhard, Malaina and Lariana Eckard; Phillip, Isaac, Nicholas and Timothy Kunder; Baby McNabb (due in February); and many nieces and nephews.

A Christian funeral service will be held on Friday, December 30 at 1 PM at the Michael J. Ambruso Funeral Home, 1175 S. State Street in Dover. Visitation will be one hour prior. Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to Tunnel to Towers (