Ralph Wayne Williams proudly lived most of his life in Madera, California, where he was affectionately known as “Red Dog” for his auburn hair and enigmatic grin. Born in Erick, Oklahoma, he was raised on 160 acres, 60 of which were planted with cotton that was decimated by the Dust Bowl. This tragedy gave birth to his future career as a farmer’s trusted advisor, walking the fields in his signature cowboy hat to recommend what their crops needed to stay healthy and fertile.
He worked closely with his father to learn carpentry and mechanics, and as everyone who loves Ralph says, “He knew everything and could fix anything.” His dad built a two-wheeled trailer, and the family packed as much as they could to start a new life in Madera when he was just eight years old.
He went to Madera Union High School, where he got to know an incredibly smart, talented dancer named Aurelia, and whom he affectionately called Rae. He embraced her family, able to hold his own in any spirited conversation in Spanish. Ralph served in the Navy on the U.S. Shangrila, and made lifelong friends, as was his natural talent. He played semi-pro football for the Madera Loggers, coached his sons’ Little League teams, and was a Boy Scout leader. Christmases were some of his favorite times, and often included visits from farmers who came to thank him for their bountiful crops.
He grew the best lawn on the block, and never missed a haircut or a chance to spend a long day boating on the lake, searching for the biggest bass to brag about. He lived the last few years of his life in the Veterans Home of California Fresno, swapping stories, sharing memories and being lovingly cared for.
Just a few days before he died there, he said, “Well, I made it to 93.” Exactly 10 days after his 93rd birthday, he passed on March 18, 2021. Being Red Dog to the end, he said, “I’m going out smiling and shouting.” When reminded how much he was loved, he said with his typical self-deprecating humor, “I’m not good at anything, but I had a lovely wife and five lovely children.”
He is survived by his children, Mark Williams and his wife, Claudia, of Boulder, Colorado; Randy Williams and his wife, Zoanne, of Fresno; Lisa Lopez Williams of Madera; Sarah Lopez Williams and her husband, Greg, of Las Vegas, Nevada; his sister, Edith Thurber; his grandchildren, Bryan, Tye, Kaelen and Ryan Williams, Taryn Sanchez, Madalena and Matéa Robertson; and great-grandchildren, Rebekah, Brendon, Bode, Tiger, Brody, Brooklyn and Noah.
He is preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Aurelia Lopez Williams; his son, Eric; his parents, John Norman and Gereda Williams; and his siblings, John, George and Doris.
Visitation will be held at Jay Chapel in Madera, California, on March 24, 2021 from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Private service with livestream available on Thursday, March 25, 2021, 2:00 p.m. To view the service Live go to the Jay Chapel website, www.jaychapel.com click on Ralph Williams’ tribute and there will be a link to follow.
Remembrances may be made in Ralph’s name to: CalVet Veterans Home of California 2811 W California Ave, Fresno, CA 93706
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