Ralph T. Woods passed away on Tuesday evening at his home south of Montrose. Five generations of the Woods family have called Montrose their home. O.H. Woods, his father, returned to Montrose, Colo., with his bride, Grace Mae Whaley and her sister Elma from Missouri in 1915. They settled on Main Street in Montrose. There, they raised seven children ― five boys and two girls. From an early age, Ralph had a strong work ethic. He sold newspapers on the corner and worked at Fox Theatre as an usher. He excelled in sports at Montrose High School, and lettered in several sports, including baseball, wrestling, football, basketball and swimming. He maintained his abilities well into his forties — he could even walk up and down the stairs on his hands in his fifties.
As a young man, Ralph worked on a rental farm on the Lone Cone above Norwood. While there, he learned that “Gone with the Wind” was showing at the theater. He hitchhiked to Norwood, watched the movie, spent the night in an alley and hitchhiked back the next day. Later, he hitchhiked to Grand Junction, attending Mesa State College while working on his pilot’s certification. He joined the Army Air Corps during World War II and was stationed in Texas as a flight instructor for all small fighter aircraft. It really bothered him that he was training young men to fight who only had a life expectancy of two weeks. Another instructor who was a close friend was killed in front of him during a training mission due to an engine malfunction. Ralph had to escort his body home by train. Five of his brothers and one sister also served in the armed forces during the war; their mother Grace Woods proudly displayed the six stars in her window. All came home. Ralph continued in the Air Force Reserve, retiring as a major and at one point working as a recruiter for the Air Force Academy.
At the end of the war, Ralph returned to Colorado and attended Colorado A& M in Fort Collins under the GI Bill, where he majored in agriculture and belonged to the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. One of his projects while attending the college was to plant the trees which still exist in front of the administration building.
In 1948, he and his father pooled their funds to purchase the family farm south of Montrose on the current Trout Road. There they raised sheep, beef cattle, horses, corn, alfalfa and beer barley over the years. Ralph married Ruby Lorena Blackburn on Feb. 27, 1950. Although a son would have been nice, they raised five daughters who became handy farm and ranch laborers. All participated in cattle drives and knew how to run farm equipment, ride horseback and work cattle. He continued his love of flying and often took the family on day excursions in their Cessna 182.
His wife Ruby preceded him in death as did his brothers Olin, Harold, Howard, Oliver and one grandson, Timothy Seymour. He is survived by his five daughters and two sisters (Velma Julin and Lucille Diele). His children are Peggy Woods (wife of Dennis Tessen, Lancaster, Pa., stepchildren Michael Hayward, Courtney and Holly Kerns, Sean Tessen and daughter Silveira, Karrah Tessen Camacho, husband Jafet, and son Jared), Elizabeth (Kathy) Woods-LaNoue (wife of Rick LaNoue, Rangely, Colo., children Summer Calkins, husband Josh and son Dylan; Craig Bresett (wife Adrienne and children Austin and Caley, Renee Joyce and husband Sean, and Lee LaNoue), Terry Nelson (wife of Steven, Montrose, son Johnathon Woods and daughter Nakeysha, stepchildren Cory and Terry; LaRel Woods (Montrose), and Charity Hicks (wife of Gregory Hicks, Pollock Pines, Calif., sons Nathan and Nolan). Numerous nieces, nephews and extended family members survive.
Ralph was a lifelong lover of movies. He also enjoyed reading, particularly World War II stories, and tried to master the Kindle. He particularly enjoyed traveling on day-long excursion trips. Ralph enjoyed excellent health until the last few weeks of his life. He developed a mild case of pneumonia but suffered a massive stroke while in the hospital. He was fortunate enough, through the services of Alpine Hospice, to enjoy his last few days at his home with his bed facing his beloved San Juan Mountains and Mt. Sneffels. Perhaps the biggest tribute to their father is that all five daughters plan to retire on the Woods Farm.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Alpine Hospice, 924 Spring Creek Rd., Unit C, Montrose, CO 81403 or the American Heart Association of Colorado, 1280 South Parker Rd., Denver, CO 80231. A visitation for family and friends will be held on Friday, May 11, 2012 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Crippin Funeral Home chapel. A graveside service with military honors is scheduled for Saturday, May 12, 2012, at 11 a.m. at Grand View Cemetery west of Montrose, with pastor Paul Nystrom officiating. Arrangements are under the direction of Crippin Funeral Home & Crematory of Montrose.