Ralph Hayes Jr passed away on February 13, 2013. Born on his father's ranch in Slope County North Dakota in 1924, his family moved to Sonoma County in 1930. As a youth, Ralph learned to drive a tractor at the Rohnert Seed Farm. Ralph, known as "Happy", played Varsity Basketball for the highly respected Coach Fortier at Santa Rosa High School. After graduation he enrolled in Santa Rosa Junior College and played on the college basketball team, until 1943, when he was drafted into the Army. He was shipped out to North Africa in a LST. Ralph joined the 813th Tank Destroyer Battalion in Libya, where he learned to drive a Tank Destroyer. Attached to the 79th Infantry Division, Ralph participated in the Normandy campaign and Patton's Third Army breakout. Ralph, as a recon corporal, and a lieutenant were the first Americans to enter the town of Bonnetable, France. His unit were the first armored vehicles across the Seine. In October, Ralph was wounded by a mortar shell, his hospitalization coinciding with the only time his Division was pulled off the front line. He rejoined his unit, eventually reaching Drusenheim France near the German border. There, Ralph received a Bronze Star for recovering an abandoned Tank Destroyer by driving it across a mined river. In January 1945, Drussenheim was surrounded and the entire 2nd Battalion of the 314th Infantry regiment was captured. Ralph spent the next few months as a POW, gaining his freedom when his guards surrendered to their prisoners. After serving as a Drill Instructor, Sergeant Ralph Hayes left the army, shortly before his 21st birthday After the war, he met his wife, Beth Bowles, and they raised their four children in Santa Rosa. He played another season for the Santa Rosa Junior College basketball team. He was a Cub Scout pack leader for Pack 125 in Santa Rosa. He enjoyed a 38 year career as a Farmers Insurance broker in Santa Rosa, retiring in 1993. In retirement he continued to serve his community working for the Humane Society, where he walked door to door to most of the houses in Santa Rosa in 1996 and then as a school crossing guard on Montgomery Drive, protecting Doyle Park Elementary students. He was devoted to his family and was a source of great strength and stability to all who knew him and was always there in a time of need. He is survived by his wife Beth Hayes, brother Charles Hayes, sister in-law Rose Hayes, sons David Hayes, Doug Hayes, Roger Hayes, daughter Jone Hayes, grandchildren Alesha Hayes, Jennifer Hayes, Molly Hayes and Scott Hayes and many nieces and nephews. A private memorial will be held. SANTA ROSA MORTUARY EGGEN AND LANCE CHAPEL, 545-3747.
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Published Online in the Press Democrat from Feb. 17 to Feb. 18, 2013