US Navy

Ralph A. Gilkison

April 14, 2021


            Ralph Gilkison died unexpectedly in Portland, Oregon, on April 14, 2021, leaving behind a shocked and bereaved family and legion of friends.  It has been said that the measure of a man is in the lives he’s touched, and Ralph’s touch was magical.  Tall, dark and handsome with baby blue eyes, Ralph was easy to love.  He could croon a tune that charmed and entertained. As a child, he sang Tura Lura Lural on the radio; he loved singing all his life.

             Ralph was adventurous. He traveled the world, climbed mountains, walked on the Arctic Ocean.  He read all of Michael Connelly’s books in a single bound. 

             A caring man,  Ralph was a friend of the downtrodden and the little guy.  He was a beam of light and love.  He would do you any favor.  He had a terrific sense of humor, laughed easily and contagiously. He was easy going, happy and so much fun to be with.

             Ralph had a soft spot for the animal world.  He loved cats, fed birds and squirrels; he took in a feral cat, Gary, as his own.  He never lost his childlike sense of wonder and enthusiasm.  He was fascinated by the mysteries of the universe.

             Ralph was born on a Monday in Eugene, Oregon, the son of Helen and Warner Gilkison.  He was the youngest of five children and reputed to be his mother’s favorite. 

             Ralph served as a Radarman (RD3) in the U.S. Navy.  He received top secret clearance during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Stationed on the East Coast, Ralph was one sailor who actually did see the world. He completed two world tours and touched foot on five continents and twenty-six foreign countries.  He saw the Northern Lights, the Southern Cross and the Midnight Sun.  His favorite country was Australia, his favorite ship the USS Canberra.

              Following the service, Ralph settled in Portland, Oregon, and completed a five year apprenticeship program as a steamfitter.  He was a 57 year member of Local 290 and worked jobs for a variety of companies and agencies including, among them,  Intel and NASA.   He spent two winters and one summer above the Arctic Circle working on construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.  Ralph truly enjoyed his life’s work and all the friendships he made along the way. When he retired, he said he missed going to work.  He stayed in touch with fellow union members, his friends, “The Boys in the Barn,” and frequently recommended a steamfitter apprenticeship as a gateway to a great life’s career. 

              Ralph married his wife, Patricia, in Portland, where they lived all through their marriage.  Their lifelong love affair was an inspiration to all who knew them.  Pat was Ralph’s best friend and shining star, the love of his life, his Wonder Woman. They had one child, their son, Brian.

             The bond between Ralph and Brian was true and deep and fiercely loving.  More than a father and son, they were Best Buds.  They enjoyed each other’s company.  Whether camping, traveling together to family reunions, riding their motorcycles cross country, building a new deck or cheering on the Blazers at the Moda Center, they did it together. 

             Ralph had a passion for BMW motorcycles and logged over 100,000 miles in all kinds of weather.  He was a prolific reader.  He liked walking.  He enjoyed crossword puzzles, chopping firewood, eating beans, popcorn and Italian food, drinking IPAs and Veuve Clicquot champagne.  He liked Kona coffee and green tea.  He had a great fondness for Maui where he vacationed many times with both large and small groups of family at the invitation of his sister-in-law, Mary.  Perhaps one day you’ll spot him there on the streets of Lahaina, on the beach near the Buddhist temple, or at sunrise on the summit of  Haleakalā  . . .

             Ralph was universally loved and will be dearly missed. He leaves behind his wife, Patricia, his son, Brian, and Brian’s wife, Jen, his brother, Dick, and Dick’s wife, Barbara, and a huge family of nieces and nephews, and sisters- and brothers-in-law.  Ralph was preceded in death by his parents, his brothers Jack and Jim, and his sister Carol.

             There will be no service at this time because of COVID-19.  However, there will be a celebration of Ralph’s life in the spring of 2022.             

             Cards and memories of Ralph are welcome. In lieu of flowers, please consider planting a tree in Ralph’s memory. If desired, donations in his memory may be made to the Portland Rescue Mission, OPB, the Cat Adoption Team or a non-profit of your choice.

            Ralph leaves us with some reflections of his own.  A few years ago, he took to heart Pat’s suggestion that he make a list of his life’s highlights and observations. He thoroughly enjoyed the project, titling it “Reflections and Recollections.” It follows in PDF format.  Please click the link below under “Service Program.”



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 Service Program


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