Longtime Alaska resident Ralph Eugene Ash died Wednesday, April 16, 2003, at his Kenai home. He was 81.
At Mr. Ash's request, his ashes will be scattered in the headwaters of the Mississippi River. A celebration of his life will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 18, at the Kenai Senior Citizens Center, followed by a potluck at the center.
Mr. Ash was born Oct. 22, 1921, in Hibbing, Minn., to Ralph Eugene Ash and Elizabeth Dulaney. He graduated from Hibbing High School and attended Hibbing Junior College. He served his country as a flight officer in the Army Air Corps from 1942 until 1945, flying B24s and B25s. After receiving an honorable discharge, he flew mail and passengers for Alaska Star, which became Alaska Airlines.
In 1948, he earned his bachelor's degree in secondary education at New Mexico State Teachers College. During this time, he also worked as the assistant manager of the Carlsbad Caverns. He subsequently obtained his master's and doctorate in recreation, both at Indiana University.
In 1960, Mr. Ash supervised the operation and maintenance of the Snow Cat fleet at the Winter Olympic Games in Squaw Valley. From 1961 to 1962, he participated in "Operation Deep Freeze" as the engineer and supervisor of the Snow Cats used for a party of eight men who made the 1,200-mile journey from McMurdo Sound to the South Pole. Charged with ensuring the reliable operation of the Snow Cats, he was entrusted with the lives of these explorers. This expedition was part of the U.S. Antarctic Research Program conducted by the University of Wisconsin under a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Mr. Ash made Alaska his home from 1962 until his death. He was appointed as recreation director for the Alaska Air Command. He received numerous certificates and awards from the Defense Department, the Alaska Air Command, the Aerospace Command and the Department of Agriculture.
"He had a great passion for the outdoors. He loved fishing, hunting and camping from an early age and instilled this love in his son, Ray. He enjoyed people immensely and was known for his wonderful sense of humor, intelligence and generous spirit," his family said.
"He made friends wherever he went. He loved to travel, celebrating life in all his adventures some as far away as Antarctica and Brazil, many in small communities around Alaska and some just down the street at his office' in Kenai."
Mr. Ash was preceded in death by a daughter, Frances Ash.
He is survived by his son, Ray Eugene Ash and wife, Helen Sharratt Ash; Ray's mother, Frances Aldridge; sisters, Mary Elizabeth Ylitalo, Helen Richter and Sally Boo; grandchildren, Ramon Ash, Sonya Ash, Raymond Ash, Leo Ash and Evelyn Sharratt-Ash; and several nieces and nephews.
Mr. Ash was a friend of Bill W. for many years. Memorial donations may be made to URS Club, 513 Peninsula Ave., Kenai, AK 99611, to hospice or to a charity of the donor's choice.
Arrangements were made by Peninsula Memorial Chapel.
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