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Michael Ralko, 64, of Charleston, SC, and formerly of Utica, entered into eternal rest on Friday, February 22, 2013. A proud Ukrainian, he was a naturalized U.S. citizen who immigrated with his family at a young age. Michael was a son of the late Peter and Helen Ralko, long-time residents of Utica, New York. Michael was a graduate of Oklahoma Military Academy, the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University. Though he attended both schools, he always considered himself a "Cowboy". Michael was a veteran of the U.S. Army, where his role was that of a Medical Services Officer. For the past 20 years, Mr. Ralko served as a Counselor with the State Department of Mental Health. Michael was dedicated to his profession and loved every minute of the time he spent with people he was helping. An active member of the American Legion Post 179, he served in a variety of roles through the years, including Commander, Vice-Commander, and most recently as Adjutant. He was also an active member of the Honor Guard, a duty he loved immensely, and was also a member of the "40/8" organization, serving in a number of leadership roles. Michael is survived by his daughter, Morgan Ralko Conover, of N. Charleston, SC; his sister, Maria Ralko, of Syracuse, NY; and devoted companion, Betty Gomah, of Charleston, SC. He was very close to Betty's daughter, Cristi and her children, Jessi and Jared, who brought him great joy as his "step-grandchildren". Also surviving are his "cousins", Steven and Olya Hnatiw, Bill and Daria Pilipczuk, and many "nieces and nephews". In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his brother, Charles Ralko. Funeral services will be held on Thursday at 11:00 AM at the Ryczek Funeral Home, 1123 Court @ York Sts., in Utica. Interment will be in St. Vladimir's Cemetery in Whitesboro. Family and friends are invited to call one hour prior to the service from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM. Donations may be made to the Veterans' Victory House, 2461 Sidneys Road, Walterboro, SC 29488. For online expressions of sympathy, please go to: www.dfwefh.com
Published in The Observer-Dispatch on Feb. 27, 2013