Service Remembrance - July 26 2003
When our family convened a week ago to discuss today's memorial, we initially had reservations about planning a traditional religious service. My father was not a traditional churchgoer. But if judgment were to be based on ones belief and adherence to the core Christian principles, then my father was one of the most religious individuals I have ever met. He had profound admiration for Jesus Christ and the revolutionary moral concepts that
Christ introduced to a mean and selfish world. The loving concern for the welfare of people, which my father believed was the essence of Christ's legacy, was a central message that he persistently promoted through his writings. He attributed the rise of human civilization to the humanitarian influences of genuine Christianity.
But my father did more than just write about morality. Those of us lucky enough to have lived with him learned from him by example. His extensive civic career and much of his professional career centered on humanitarian causes. Compensation was always a secondary consideration to the mission. When maintaining moral integrity required sacrifice, my father stood steadfast. He was hired by the Department of Energy shortly after it's inception in the 1970's to help write regulations relative to aviation fuels. It wasn't long before sections of the new agency had become a morass of bureaucracy, plagued not just by inefficiencies but also by outright fraud and abuse. From a selfish, economic standpoint, it would have been easy to maintain status quo, but my father's principles did not allow him to take the easy route. He jeopardized his job and made himself a target by making public the abuses that were taking place within the agency. His crusade for right was chronicled by Jack Anderson, the widely syndicated Pulitzer Prize winning columnist. The exposé resulted in hardships for my father, but it eventually forced reforms that corrected many of the wrongs. Several times throughout his professional career, he took the more difficult path of principles over selfish gains.
An often-heard adage is that a person can be judged by the company they keep. The list of celebrities from the scientific, medical, business, and artistic world that considered my father a friend is impressive. As a child, I took for granted the procession of notables that spent time in our home.
Lear, the genius inventor with hundreds of technical innovations that included the first practical car stereo and the Lear Jet, took me aside once during a visit to his Reno aircraft plant and told me what a special man my father was.
Fernandez Moran, a biologist/physicist best known for his invention of the diamond knife and
Richard Neutra, the famed Austrian architect,
often stayed at our home when visiting DC. What motivated these
individuals and others to cultivate a relationship with my father were his many great qualities. They not only admired his intelligence, they admired his enthusiasm for creative accomplishment. To them, he was a kindred spirit. His general passion for life was contagious.
My father's youthful enthusiasm spread beyond his professional and civic life. A story my sisters and I enjoy retelling involved a bicycle jump that my friends and I set-up in front of our Mt. Vernon home in the late 1970's. He came out of the house that day and was immediately intrigued by our experimentation with ramp angle, ramp height and bike speed. I hesitantly relinquished the bike to him and watched with apprehension as he accelerated towards the ramp with a speed that none of the kids had dared approach. He had a perfect launch and a beautiful flight. The landing was another story. But my father was all smiles as we helped untangle him from the bike. He walked back into the house a bit scuffed up, but holding the distance record for the day.
My father was in his 60's at that time. His age didn't deter him from exploring new diversions that included motorcycling, hang-gliding and water-skiing. But his true love remained aviation, an obsession that I inherited undiluted. He accumulated tens-of-thousands of flying hours over a 50-year period in a multitude of aircraft, including one that he designed and built as a teenager. He crossed the Atlantic with
Conrad, another aviation legend, in a plane that was not much bigger than that used by Charles Lindbergh. Airplanes were as common in our household as automobiles and the bulk of our family's extensive travel throughout the United States and Mexico was in the family plane. There was nothing in the world that I enjoyed more than flying cross-country with my father.
Our final flight together occurred less than 2 months ago when Bob Goetz and I flew my father to Springfield Illinois for his induction into the Illinois Junior Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame. It was an experience that I will relish for the remainder of my life for reasons that go beyond the significance of the flight itself. Although I have long been aware of my fathers stellar tenure with the Jaycees, it was not until this event that I experienced first-hand the reverence with which he was held not just by those Jaycee's that knew him, but by the younger generation of members that simply knew of him. His acceptance speech was classic Ralph. He delivered a succinct, beautifully crafted message articulating the importance of optimism and beneficial achievement. He ended with a Thomas Jefferson quote; a quote that was at the heart of my fathers life-credo. He said
"Life is either a great adventure or nothing at all."
Many of you in this room are aware that my Father was my best man at Dawn's and my wedding 5 years ago. Although I am extremely privileged to have many great, devoted friends, there was never a doubt that my father would assume the role. He was more than my father; he was a best friend, a teacher, a motivator, a source of inspiration. He was,
literally, my best man.
- Alfredo Rohweder
| Bob Goetz
Service Remembrance - July 26 2003
First, I've been asked to convey the condolences to Mary and the family, and deep sorrow of the United States Jaycees in the loss of a great Jaycee - Ralph Rohweder - even though they didn't always agree with him. But, he gave them something to think about.
I first met Ralph Rohweder about ten years ago. But in the past ten years, I have come to know and respect the giant of a man that was Ralph Rohweder. I'd like to tell you a little about the Ralph Rohweder I knew. I was visiting Ralph's website this week, and came across some remarks he delivered less than two months ago titled "Expectations and Fulfillment" that summarize his beliefs in an organization he was associated with for over 64 years. Here are just part of his remarks:
"There is an organization that has cultivated more optimists then any other institution in the world. It is the Jr. Chamber of Commerce -- the Jaycees. The Jaycee organization is an instrument for youthful experimentation in project planning, organization, financing and management. It is much easier to accomplish good things if you have an existing group of potential co-workers. Success builds your self-confidence. And success encourages you to undertake more and more interesting and important projects.
Tens of thousands of ex-Jaycees will tell you that their lives were transformed by experiencing early success in leadership. The Jaycee experience taught them the central principle of life. Joy in beneficial accomplishment is the central feature of a good life."
Ralph first joined the Jaycees in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1939, where his fellow members included then 32-year-old Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen and Warren Burger, who later became Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. In 1942 he moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he became President of the Chicago Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1945-46 and President of the Illinois Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1947-48. Ralph went on to serve the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce as National Vice President in 1948-49.
As National Vice President responsible for governmental affairs, he led the Jaycees' efforts to gain adoption of the recommendations of the Hoover Commission to reorganize the federal government during the Truman administration. An interesting event during that period was a banquet held at Chicago's Shoreham Hotel, where he was introduced as a speaker by then-Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson. The only other speaker was former President of the United States Herbert Hoover.
Although he was one of four unsuccessful candidates for President of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1950, another unsuccessful candidate that year was Jaycee Creed author C. William Brownfield. Since 1949, Ralph has been a stalwart member of the Crew of the S.S. Fellowship, a group of former national Jaycee officers formed in 1931 by founder John Armbruster. As far as we can tell, Ralph was the person who holds the record for the longest time - 55 years - as a member of the Crew. Here is how John Armbruster described the Crew in a letter he sent on June 26, 1931, to some of the friends he had made over the first several years of the Jaycee movement:
"I fancy I see a spiritual ship - "FELLOWSHIP" - the crew of which consists of men who have been associated with the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce movement, men, who were together in furthering this cause and who thereby came to know, and become fond of, each other. We can sail this ship together - we can be present in spirit if not in person. This ship ought to have fair weather and the voyage through should bring many experiences that each of us can share - reminding me of the two lines of an old song:
'Comrades, comrades, ever since we were boys,
Sharing each other's sorrows, sharing each other's joys…"
"This ship is supplied to us gratis. I will be glad to keep the Log - your pay will be the pleasure you derive from keeping in touch with your acquaintances and friends made in the JC affairs. Your duties will be to contribute your experiences and thoughts occasionally when the spirit moves you."
Ralph and I have been Keepers of the Log for The Crew for about 10 years, and he also chaired the 1999 Crew Reunion in Washington, DC. He very belatedly received JCI Senator #58184 in 1998 from United States Junior Chamber President Eric Seidel.
Alfredo has already told you about our trip to Illinois the end of May this year. I an others had tried to surprise Ralph with the well-deserved recognition; however,, he was so busy and his health was declining, so we had to tell him. When I told him about the award on Memorial Day, he was depressed about his declining health and I was worried that he could not make the trip. But he wanted to go, and you all know that Ralph would do whatever he wanted to do. We had a short, but uplifting trip, and he was honored as the true leader he was. He was recognized alongside the former Secretary of State of Illinois, an unsuccessful candidate for Governor in the last election. But the person today's Jaycees wanted to meet and talk to was Ralph - because they could see he was someone they wanted to emulate.
I also knew Ralph on a very personal level. As previous speakers have discussed, we talked many times about ideologies and thought processes, and he opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about our society and our role in the world of today. Also, a couple of years ago I was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. While I was dealing with the terror of my diagnosis, I called Ralph for advice, because he was the smartest person I knew. He calmingly helped me through my crisis, even going so far as to go to Johns Hopkins with me to talk to my oncologist, who he challenged and discussed my situation with until I was comforted by the course of action we selected. He gave me a lot of strength to get me through into remission.
I already miss Ralph quite a bit, but I look forward to the talks I'm sure we'll have in the afterlife. I'm confident that he's already discussing society and religion with God and the angels. Thanks, Ralph, for being one of my Jaycee heroes and role models!
I am joined here today by a couple of other friends of Ralph's from The Crew - Tom Donnelly and Wayne Field. One Mate who could not be with us today - Bob Lindholm - who just a few weeks ago to relieve Ralph and I as Keepers of the Log - asked me to share with you a few words about Ralph:
"I wish I were able to be with you to personally this afternoon, to add my remembrances of Ralph to this celebration his life. He was a very special friend.
I first met Ralph at the beginning of Richard Nixon's 2nd term as president. The "Wednesday Morning Fellowship" was formed then, and there was a connection that someone else might make reference to this afternoon. Phil Knox, Tom Donnelly, George Pagonis, Chuck Shearer, and Reed Larson were charter members of the group that met at 7:45AM every Wednesday morning in Phil Knox's law library near the capitol in downtown Washington. Phil was Governmental Affairs Vice President for Sears Roebuck.
Ralph and I came aboard a couple of weeks after "The Fellowship" kicked off, and were the only two that didn't work in Washington, driving back to Virginia after each meeting for about 15 years. In the last 10 or more years we have worked together on Crew projects and Reunions.
I consider myself luckier than most of you, however, as I was able to spend two hours with Ralph and Mary several weeks ago, right after he came home from the hospital for the last time. We talked about our hometown Duluth, Minnesota; and we talked about the Jaycees and their diminishing numbers; we talked about his recent trip to Illinois to receive a special award from the Illinois Jaycees Foundation and how proud he was of that recognition; we talked about flying and about how proud he was of his children; and we talked about the future of the Crew of the S.S. Fellowship and the need to do something to pump new life into the organization.
Then, when our time together was finished, Mary brought the box of Crew files and papers to me, Ralph wished me well, and I departed.
What a great man.
A brilliant mind is gone from us.
An articulate voice, stilled.
A good citizen and family man and role model.
A Jaycee, active to the end of his life.
We will miss him, but have wonderful memories of our times with him
- Bob Goetz
to Mary, Ralph's Wife - July 2003
I have delayed responding to this news because I loved and respected Ralph greatly, and I knew not what to say.
When I received notice, I was in Europe on a belated honeymoon. The news shattered me in a way I cannot understand.
I knew Ralph was failing-- he told me he was a concentration camp victim, all bones, no flesh, little energy.
For me, Ralph was an anchor. A man of integrity and brilliance. I think
John David had it right when he said that Ralph was the most ethical (and biologically) successful man he knew.
Of course, John David is also gone. Such special men as Ralph remind us of our obligation to make the world a better place.
He never wavered from that course. He didn't detour. He lives, and will always live, in our memories.
God bless you, and all of the family. With heartfelt thanks for having known this man,
to Ralph's Family - July 2003
You all have my deepest sympathy in the sorrow that has come to you because of my friend Ralph's death.
A friendship such as existed between Ralph and me is rare. Although the last few years we saw little of each other, our telephone conversations picked up effortlessly where we left off, regardless the length of the interval. Many years ago, we worked in adjoining rooms at the Department of Energy and shared joy and sorrow of our lives. I learned enormously from him and still remember some of his favorite theories and sayings--sometimes maybe little extreme but always amusing and hitting the nail on the head with the right choice of words. We had great fun and the absolute certainty of a friendship to be there for the other no matter what. When my sister was operated with cancer, Ralph showed up at the hospital with flowers and drove me there whenever necessary. He was lonely at the time and unhappy with his job. But God looked after him: Mary, Christina and Marianna came along, and his life obtained a solid basis. Thanks are due to Mary for it.
So many memories became vivid again! To sum it up: Ralph was one of the most original, non-fitting-any mold person I ever met. For me, he represents the best of America: unfailingly honest, ethical (his favorite word), adventurous, enterprising, fun, and the most loving and faithful friend. In material terms, his life might not have been as successful as his talents would have justified, but the aura of his personality and its effect on those around him was and still is incalculably diffusive.
May he rest in peace. He will be long remembered
- Judith Mariassy