Ralph Liberty ("Libs") Vatalaro, St. Augustine took his last flight on Feb. 18, 2014, at the Bailey Center. He was born on Oct. 23, 1917, in Sacramento, Calif. His family moved to Fresno in 1920. He attended Colombia Elementary School, Edison Junior High, and graduated in June 1936 from Fresno High School. Following one year at Fresno Tech Junior College, he spent time working at various jobs in Fresno and Mare Island Naval Repair Facility in Vallejo, Calif.
In June 1943 he enlisted in the Army Air Corp Aviation Cadet pilot training program. After completing training, he received his pilot wings and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in November 1944. He was assigned to B-17 combat flying when World War II ended.
He separated from the service in March 1946 and returned to Fresno where he entered the Air Force Reserves. He returned to active duty and became an advanced flying pilot instructor in various single-, multi-, and jet engine aircraft. In 1954, he transferred to the Military Air Transport Service. He was commander of several Aerial Port Squadrons in Korea, Japan, Iceland, France, and stateside bases. He retired after attaining the rank of Major on Jan. 1, 1968, and earning his wings as a command pilot. He was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal upon retirement for exemplary service. After retirement, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and served for 10 years inspecting pleasure crafts and conducting patrols.
Ralph was a member of the Italian Catholic Federation of Fresno, County Sportsman Club, the Military Officers Association of America, and the American Legion, Post 509.
Ralph was preceded in death by his wife, Linnea, in April 1984 after 43 years of marriage. He is survived by his two sons, Ralph Vatalaro and Steve Vatalaro, Scottsdale, Ariz.; daughter, Peggy Richardi (husband George), St. Augustine; grandsons, Mark Vatalaro (wife Sandy) of Scottsdale, Ariz., Todd Vatalaro (wife Angelica) of Sacramento, Calif., and Nick Vatalaro of San Francisco, Calif.; and granddaughter, Erika Arnold (husband Kyle) of St. Augustine. Ralph lived life to the fullest, loved to fish, ski, and hunt, and made many great friends in St. Augustine, where he lived his last two years with his daughter and son-in-law.
Memorial services will be at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 1, 2014, at Whitehurst Funeral home in Fresno, Calif. Burial will be immediately following at St. Peters Catholic Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the
, 2222 W. Shaw, Fresno, Calif.
Craig Funeral Home Crematory Memorial Park is in charge of the local arrangements www.craigfuneralhome.com
Craig Funeral Home Memorial Park
1475 Old Dixie Highway St. Augustine, FL 32086
Published in St. Augustine Record on Feb. 23, 2014