RALPH J. CHEEK

Ralph Junior Cheek passed away in a care facility in Portland on August 15, 2008. He is survived by his cousins, Betty Wentling and Fran Nichols. He will be buried at the Eagle Point National Cemetery, Monday, August 25, 2008 at 10 a.m.

Ralph's road was not an easy one. His mother died when he was young, and he and his two sisters were fortunate to be taken in by relatives. His early years were spent in the San Luis Obispo area of California before moving to a dairy on the Pt. Reyes Peninsula.

Ralph joined the Army at age 17. He was proud to have served in the elite Army Rangers in Korea as a paratrooper. While in the military, he learned to box. After his discharge, he boxed professionally for several years.

Ralph followed his cousin Betty Wentling to Southern Oregon, and found work as a carpenter. He framed many barns and houses in White City and Eagle Point. Friends from those days say that if a pretty girl walked by, Ralph would burst into song and dance along the narrow top plate until she looked his way.

Ralph was very athletic, and was an excellent left-handed golfer. He was even more famous for his colorful golfing outfits, which he wore with pride. Ralph would not hesitate to stop in any store or business on his way to the golf course, regardless of his flamboyant attire.

Ralph spent many years doing ranch work. He enjoyed tending cattle, fixing fence, riding and rodeoing. He lived from place to place, wherever his work took him. Despite his diminutive size, Ralph was a very hard worker. But his fun-loving, practical jokester side sometimes got him into trouble, and he could not be trusted to use a cattle prod appropriately.

Ralph was married twice. He had seven years with his beloved second wife, Lois, before she succumbed to cancer on August 4, 1996.

Those who knew Ralph would surely agree, he was as colorful a character as they come. He enjoyed entertaining his friends, playing the harmonica, dancing, and telling stories. He used to say, I'll tell it seven different ways, but I'll never lie!

Despite his abilities, Ralph's life was made difficult by his alcoholism. He was often homeless, or living in his truck. At one time, when he had lost his driver's license for driving under the influence, he was cited for being DUI on a bicycle. Whether from his drinking, small strokes, or early dementia, he lost touch with many of his friends and relatives in his later years.

I only met Ralph about 5 years ago, when I moved to Eagle Point. He was still living independently, despite his confusion. I was always touched by his faith in people, though sometimes misplaced. His dementia had left him vulnerable, yet he never seemed to worry or be afraid. If he got lost, he would show up on somebody's porch, smoking his pipe, seeming to be perfectly at home, confident they would help him get straightened out.

I liked and admired Ralph Cheek, and am glad I got to know him, even though for just a short while at the end of his life. I am grateful to Karen and Cricket Narramore at Caring Way foster home in White City for taking Ralph in when he needed a safe, warm place. He was also very fortunate to have his cousin Betty Wentling, a guardian angel who looked over him for so many years.

Written by his neighbor, Sandy Banks.

Arrangements by Litwiller-Simonsen Funeral Home, Ashland, Ore. (541)482-2816.