Ralph William Michael McCarthy was born Sept. 6, 1944 in Niagra Falls, New York, to Paul and Mary Madau McCarthy, the first male child of immigrants to be born in the United States.
Ralph was raised in Artesia, Calif., a surfboarder at Huntington Beach in the days when one could catch a Janis Joplin or Bob Dylan show, and Elvis scandalized his father. He was a “cradle Catholic” who over the years studied the Bible, Judaism, the Koran and many spiritual books and approaches, always returning to his Catholic roots and a loving power far beyond our understanding but not beyond our knowing.
He served with the U.S. Air Force in the Vietnam era, part of the 78th Air Police Squadron, guarding nuclear warheads at Hamilton Field during the Cuban Missile Crisis and serving at Cheyanne Mountain, when not engaged in general M.P. work.
Ralph raised his boys, Sean and Shane, as a single father, believed to be the first man in the State of California to win full custody in court using a “fit father” argument and pleading the case himself. Ralph started the Single Dads of California group, appearing in Time magazine and Family Circle. He was a tireless and ardent champion of Shane and all with learning and development disabilities.
Ralph’s work career was as varied as his interests. He began by building a shoeshine box and shining shoes to earn money for his first bike. He wrote and sold advertising, worked on movie crews and sold cars until he got his first ulcer. He returned to school, gaining a Master’s Degree in Education and another in English. Before retiring, he found a groove in tutoring, especially those with learning challenges and those learning English as a second language.
He was creative – a storyteller, poet, writer and dabbler in painting and drawing. He was co-writer of a play about being a single father; it won a contest and was performed at the University of Notre Dame. His love of photography spanned the days of using a darkroom to the speed of digital. Ralph was videographer for the Ferndale Community Choir and possibly its biggest fan, missing only two concerts over 27 years.
Ralph loved collegiate sports, especially women’s athletics, and he acquired the nickname “Title 9 Guy” from a member of the women’s basketball team at HSU. Softball, basketball, rugby, crew, track, soccer – he was a faithful fan of HSU teams and the young people who played on them. He ran a couple of websites where he posted thousands of photos of players, the plays they made, and their fans.
When the last softball was caught, it was on to the “best part of the year” – watching the Humboldt Crabs on the third base bleachers with popcorn, sunshine (or drizzle), the sound of the bat on well-hit ball and friends. When August rolled around, it was photos from the “back side” of the racetrack – horses, jockeys and the thundering races at the Humboldt County Fair.
Ralph moved to Humboldt County in 1975 and considered it the most beautiful place in the world. The longest he was away in more than a quarter century was to work for the Red Cross during hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Even before developing cancer, Ralph was a fighter, battling PTSD, depression, alcoholism and addiction with commitment, a sense of humor, and sometimes with a grace that was amazing. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer on the day of his 29th sobriety anniversary.
Ralph leaves behind Susan, his wife of over 25 years; his sons Sean and Shane; his granddaughter Cierra and fiancé Mike, with his newborn great-granddaughter Vivian; his granddaughter Bailey; his brother Paul and his wife Sue; and his sister Bernadette. He also leaves a host of greatly loved cousins, nieces, nephews and in-laws, as well as friends from all walks of life found all around the globe.
Ralph passed peacefully at his home in Eureka on July 31, 2016, with Susan holding his hand, Shane sleeping soundly, and his dog Ferndale on his lap, surrounded by music and love and beauty.
A memorial will be held on Saturday, Sept. 24 at 2 p.m. at the Eureka Woman’s Club, 1531 J St. The family thanks the dedicated professionals at the Veterans Clinic of Eureka, St. Joseph Hospital and Hospice of Humboldt for their care; Dr. Palmer for his brilliance and kindness over the years; Father Tom Diaz and Pastor Paul Demant, and the many friends and family members who visited, played music, and made his last days a time of joy.