Ralph Louis Gilbert, formerly of Seven Lakes, Westfield, N.J., and Huntington, N.Y., died peacefully at St. Joseph of the Pines Health Center in Southern Pines, on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, at the age of 94.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, July 12, in the Chapel at Belle Meade, 100 Waters Drive, Southern Pines. A private inurnment will take place at the Seven Lakes Chapel in the Pines at another time.
Ralph was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Jo (Josephine), with whom he shared the best 68 years of his life. He is survived by his two daughters and their husbands, Margery and Denis Finnin, and Barbara and Kurt Josef Schildknecht; and by one grandson, Henry W. Finnin. He was predeceased by his son, James (Jersey) Gilbert, who is survived by his wife, Ellen Schultz. He is also survived by his brother and his brother's wife, John F. and Betty Gilbert.
Ralph was born in Huntington, N.Y., on Nov. 13, 1924, the middle of three sons, to Henry and Martha Gilbert, originally of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Oslo, Norway. He graduated in 1942 from Huntington High School, where he was known by all his friends as “Red” for his bright auburn head of hair. One of the proudest accomplishments of his youth was attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.
In 1942, on his 18th birthday, Ralph enlisted in the Navy, trained as a fighter pilot, and was commissioned as a naval aviator in 1945. Following the war, Ralph volunteered for a special utility squadron, and flew as a test pilot, and as a personal pilot for Admiral Briscoe. After his release from active duty in 1946, Ralph served in the Naval Reserve for 23 years, along the way moving from flying to air intelligence, and retired with a rank of commander.
Ralph earned a B.S. in air transportation engineering from Purdue University in 1949, and returned to New York to begin his career at Johns-Manville, in Industrial Sales. In 1971 he left Johns-Manville to start and manage the Mechanical Packings and Friction Materials division at Porter Hayden Co.
Ralph met Jo on a blind date in 1947, and a year after their marriage, in 1948, they moved briefly to Scarsdale, N.Y., then to Westfield, N.J. During their 30 years in Westfield, Ralph and Jo were an integral part of the community. Ralph served two terms on the Westfield Town Council, and as president of the Manor Park Civic Association, spearheaded the building of the Manor Park Swim Club. He was also active in the local Boy Scouts and College Men’s Club.
Ralph and Jo were faithful members of the Redeemer Lutheran Church, where Ralph served on the Church Council.
In 1987, after retirement, Ralph and Jo moved to Seven Lakes, and when not golfing and traveling, he continued to be an outgoing neighbor and active community member, generously giving his time to the Kiwanis Club, the Chapel in the Pines, and the Military Officers Association of America.
In lieu of flowers, his family suggests that memorial donations be made to The Belle Meade Employees Education Fund, Belle Meade, 100 Waters Drive, Southern Pines, NC 28387, in tribute to the attentive, caring, and conscientious service provided by the many exceptional Belle Meade employees in all the departments of the community that Ralph was happy to call home for the last seven years of his life; or to The Foundation of FirstHealth, 150 Applecross Road, Pinehurst, NC 28374. Online condolences can be made to www.bolesfuneralhome.com.
Services are entrusted to Boles Funeral Home of Seven Lakes.