I met Ralph a few years ago while he was paying his son, Peter, an unexpected visit. Peter was eager to introduce me to his dad and I was asked to join them for lunch. To my delight and surprise, I found Ralph and I had something to share besides pleasantries. Over the course of a few hours, we covered Southern literature (he was a Carson McCullers guy), The Elements of Style and Bay Area hofbraus. Although sometimes hard to follow, his conversation was bright and playful -- full of clever non sequiturs and innuendos that made me laugh months after our meeting. Whenever Peter and I talked afterward, we would invariably quote Ralph at some point in our conversation.
I only saw Ralph once more (again for lunch) and it was much of the same. He wasn't quite as lucid, but still ebullient and full of humor.
Despite the rarity of our encounters, I felt like I was with an old friend when I was with Ralph. I was, and am, in awe of his unique intellect and brand of humor. I know I'm not the only one. My deepest sympathy to his family and friends.