formerly of VESTAL – Passed away peacefully at the age of 86 on Saturday, October 26, 2019 at St. Ann’s Home, Rochester, NY where he had resided for two and a half years.
He is predeceased by a brother Samuel A. Stephens of Conklin, NY; brother-in-law Wilson R. Wadsworth of Vestal, NY; nephew Richard D. Wadsworth and niece Deborah A. (Wadsworth) Bernardo both of Vestal, NY. He is survived by his loving wife of 60 years Colleen M. (Bussey); two daughters, Barbara A. (Richard E.) Paufve of Rochester, NY and Sandra J. (Brian L.) Smith of Prineville, OR; three grandsons, Matthew R. Paufve of San Diego, CA, James M. Paufve of Binghamton, NY, and Curtis R. Smith of Prineville, OR; sister Caroline J. Wadsworth of Vestal, NY; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.
Born October 17, 1933 in Trucksville, Kingston Township, PA to James Richard and Gladys (Turley) Stephens. Ralph’s family moved to Vestal, NY when he was only a few years old. In his early years, Ralph learned to build houses from his father. Just something you had to learn so you'd have a skill later on. During WWII he helped support his family by hunting pheasant, squirrel, rabbit and fishing for their dinner. He earned extra money by trapping and skinning pelts, raising chickens and had a very large newspaper route that he was always very proud of. He loved dogs and had several throughout his lifetime. He was an altar boy and had his Confirmation in 1947 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Endicott, NY. He was a member of Boy Scout Troop 221 in Vestal and very proud of winning a knot tying contest in 1950 to win a trip to the 2nd National Jamboree at Valley Forge, PA.
In high school he was a wrestler and drummer in the band. He graduated in 1951 from Vestal Central High School. Attended Broome Technical Community College in Binghamton, NY and then enlisted in the Air Force in 1953. He served his time during the Korean War as an Air Force radio mechanic. Basic Training at Sampson Air Force Base at Seneca Lake, NY. Radio School at Scott Air Force Base, St. Louis, IL for technical training on transmitters & receivers. Stationed in Korea and Japan. In 1955 stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, VA. Joined the Air Force Reserves in 1957 and was honorably discharged in 1961. He then completed his degree in Electrical Technology that year.
On May 16, 1959 he married “Connie” Colleen M. Bussey at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Vestal. He and Connie built their home in Vestal. They made many friends between their bowling league, golf, and Ralph’s time as a volunteer firefighter with Vestal Fire Department Company 4. He was always first on the scene and drove the “big truck”. And he was a member of B.P.O.E. Elks Lodge #1977 of Endicott, NY. He chopped firewood, to help heat their home and for the exercise, and tended to their large vegetable garden. He also enjoyed making dandelion and elderberry wine.
Ralph was an avid fisherman, deer hunter, and all-around handyman. Any chance he had he would find a way to go fishing. He had the patience to spend hours in a boat or along the shore. Given the chance Ralph could tell stories for hours! He always wanted to be a cowboy and loved reading western books and watching westerns on TV. He restored an antique wooden boat, a 1930 Model A Ford Truck, and enjoyed riding motorcycles and snowmobiles. He was very meticulous and detail-oriented but he could be smiling and goofy at times, much to the delight of his family.
He worked at IBM Corp. in Endicott, NY from 1963 to 1990, retiring after 27 years with the company. He was a graduate of IBM Technical School and was a draftsman, tool & metal dye designer, and eventually Senior Associate Manufacturing Engineer.
Two years after retirement, Ralph and Connie sold their home in Vestal and bought an RV to live in full-time and travel the country. With their daughters living on opposite coasts, they explored the United States while traveling between them. During winters they headed to Arizona and took jobs as bag checkers at the baseball stadium, and as drivers at a large auto auction. They built a house on the coast in Seal Rock, OR and lived there for about 5 years. In 2007 they moved to (Greece) Rochester, NY. In their 16 years on the road, they visited 49 of our 50 states and all but 2 Canadian provinces. They experienced the beauty of the United States and Canada while making many friends along the way.
Ralph was a kind, generous man, always willing and eager to help anyone in need. He will be missed by many.
Calling Hours will be Friday November 1, 4-7 pm at New Comer Cremations & Funerals, 2636 Ridgeway Ave., Rochester, NY. A Memorial Service and burial will be Saturday November 2 at 1 pm at Vestal Hills Memorial Park, Vestal, NY.
Donations in Ralph’s name can be made to Lollypop Farm Humane Society here