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Ralph Spencer Jacobson

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Ralph Spencer Jacobson passed away peacefully with his family at his side in Vancouver, Washington, on Sunday, May 25, 2014. He was born to Paul and Jorgine Jacobson on the family farm in Bellingham on September 5, 1925. Ralph was the youngest of six children: Otto, Pauline, Jack, Norma, and Bob, all of whom preceded him in death. Ralph enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1943 and was trained as a fighter pilot at Luke Field in Phoenix, Arizona and Hobbs AFB in New Mexico. When the war ended in 1945, he enrolled in Washington State University in Pullman and he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1950. While a student at WSU, Ralph met Patricia Ann Morss and they married on June 17, 1950, making their first home in Portland, Oregon. Ralph's career in the paper industry took him all over the world and the couple established homes and lasting friendships and memories in Appleton, Wisconsin; Portland, Oregon; Vancouver, Washington; Duncan, Canada; and Ngodwana, South Africa. Upon retirement in 1990, Ralph and Patty purchased five acres in Washougal, Washington under the shadow of Mt. Norway where they built a cozy home and spent the next twenty years entertaining family and friends around the woodstove in the kitchen and the fire pit outside. Two of their childrens' marriage ceremonies were performed at their home. Ralph called all these get-togethers, "premium days," as were all times spent with cherished family and friends at home and abroad. The statistics of this man's life cannot impart what he meant to so many. To his wife, he was a knight in shining armor throughout their sixty-three year marriage. To his grandchildren, he was a teacher of many things such as how to build a barn and why the Boston Red Sox are better than the Yankees! He gave his children a deep appreciation for poetry, literature, nature in general (birds in particular), dogs, horses, and dry humor. He also loved fishing (fly fishing in particular), teaching his son very early and passing this love on to him in the process. Spending time on the water, tying flies, and planning their next trip, whether real, or just dreaming, was a special bond they had. On one of those trips, he shocked his son by suddenly diving into deep water while walking on a Lake Michigan dock one summer afternoon. When he came up with a young girl gasping for air, it was apparent he had just saved her from drowning. Then, as though nothing had happened, he continued back to the boat, soaking wet, to finish the day fishing--that was just how Ralph did things. He could do anything, and everything he did, he did with passion and skill. He crafted elegant furniture and tools but designing and building wooden boats was a desire deeply ingrained in his Norwegian DNA. In another time he may have been a great marine architect or a master shipwright like his father. He designed some very beautiful sailboats that never saw open water and exist today only as treasured drawings and models. This is the story of a man who lived and loved life well. Until dementia robbed him of his wonderful mind, he gave freely of his time, knowledge, and heart to all who knew him and he is, and ever will be, sorely missed by those who loved him. Ralph is survived by his loving wife, Patricia, his children, Camilla (Mark), Stephanie, and Guy (Shelley), grandchildren, Benjamin, Samuel, Jennifer (Paul), Patty (Andy), Emily, Drew, and Travis; three great-grandsons, Jack, Henry, and Owen Fryer; as well as beloved nieces, nephews, friends, and caregivers.

Published in Bellingham Herald on June 7, 2014
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