Walter was born and raised in Los Angeles, living with his parents and older sister Elaine. Upon graduating high school and having never visited the campus, he decided to attend Stanford University. Until the end of his life he treasured these years of learning and camaraderie.
After Stanford, Walter brought his innovations and good business sense to the family business, Ralphs Grocery Company, which was sold in 1968. During World War II he used his expertise on the home front to distribute food to American troops. Later, pursuing an interest in cattle and a love of land, he founded Ralphs Ranches. Over the years, Walter learned about and implemented sustainable and humane practices, earning worldwide recognition and national awards. He loved spending time at the ranch, enjoying both the work with cattle and hay and the beautiful streams, meadows, and forests. Working with Jim and Mary Rickert, ranch managers for over thirty years, he became like family to them.
Walter was an active and passionate tennis player. He impressed all of us by continuing to play into his nineties and being nationally ranked in his age group, though he was characteristically modest about his achievements. Walter was not a quitter, as one story shows. When asked why he lost a match in his late eighties he said, "Well it was a hot day, and after playing for five hours on the court, I started to get a little tired."
Walter was loved dearly by his family and friends and our memories of him will continue to inspire and guide us. As an adolescent during the Great Depression, Walter learned from his father the importance of helping people and the equal value of every human being, regardless of his wealth or race. We will remember him for his very generous and loving nature and the way he always tried to find some way of helping others. Walter lived a full and rich life, driven by his curiosity and sense of adventure to explore the world and many fields of knowledge. He was a gifted story teller, with an endless supply of wonderful stories about his life. But he was equally interested in conversing with others and enjoyed hearing about their perspectives and experiences. He had a wide range of friends; people felt comfortable in his presence. He was also a true gentleman with a sense of dignity and kindness, and showed respect for all those around him.
Finally, he enjoyed life, reveling in the small pleasures of a completed crossword puzzle, a delicious piece of chocolate or apple pie, or an antelope in a field of alfalfa. Living 94 years, he never stopped learning and immersing himself in life. He wanted to live to 100, but his passion for life will live on in our memories of him.
Walter Ralphs was a devoted husband to his loving wife, Colleen, of 34 years and had two children, Tony and Steve, two step children, Robin and Richard, many grandchildren and great grandchildren, and an extended family that reached well beyond that. We will all miss Walt so much, but have so many fond and loving memories to always keep him near us.