A popular figure of the Santa Barbara beach, diving and shooting scene quietly passed away on October 1, 2008, after a brief illness. Ralph was born to Nora (Reeves) and Ralph Malcolm Sr. in Charleroi, Pennsylvania.
At an early age he was drawn to the outdoors and became an expert in trapping and hunting small game for the family dinner table. At the same time he excelled as a sharp shooter and won numerous distinctions at local and statewide competitions, a hobby that he exercised with great passion until his final days.
When the US entered into the World War II, he was drafted and trained as a medic at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Soon after receiving his medical badge he shipped out to the Asia Pacific Theater to join the 43rd infantry division, 804th field artillery, where he experienced the horrors of war and earned several medals and distinctions for bravery and valor. He saw action mostly in New Guinea and finally in the Philippines where the locals fell in love with him for his gusto in life and his gentile nature. At the end of the hostilities and after most officers had already left for home, Ralph and his fighting buddies learned the war was over and that they had “better look for a ride home”.
The overcrowded rusty “tin can” that brought our heroes back to their homeland docked in San Francisco, Christmas Eve 1945. Penniless and dressed in dirty torn fatigues, Ralph along with many other returning soldiers were left on the cold docks wondering how they would hitch a ride to their respective hometowns. With the aid and generosity of local families and charities, the men were finally reunited with their loved ones. After having served for over 21 months, Sergeant Malcolm received his Honorable Discharge from the 804th FA Service Battery January 9, 1946.
After some time in his hometown, Ralph felt that he needed more excitement in his life and headed west. While serving in the Pacific, he had developed a love of the ocean and therefore was attracted to the environment and lifestyle of Santa Barbara. Upon his arrival, he embarked on biology studies at UCSB Riviera Campus. In his spare time he trained to become a lifeguard and in June, 1953, Ralph and 15 other local young men passed their rigorous exams and were assigned to safeguard our very popular beaches. He became the head lifeguard for the Santa Barbara Parks department, a job that he kept for many years. He was also put in charge of the “Los Banos Del Mar” swimming pool where the city some time later installed living quarters for him. Around the same time, Ralph obtained “Happy” a 20 ft. boat that he equipped for hard hat diving. He and his many friends would take it to the Channel Islands to dive for lobster and abalone, and to fish.
In 1962 Ralph married his best friend Laura Wilt and although they remained very close until Laura’s passing in 2004, they only shared a home for a short time. In 1969 he bought his own house on Borton Drive on the Mesa adjacent to the Wilcox nursery (Douglas Family Preserve) where he lived for the rest of his life. During this time he also became a commercial abalone diver until a very serious accident left him disabled.
No longer able to work or enjoy the diving he loved, Ralph focused on maintaining his home and pursuing his interest in guns. He possessed an eclectic collection and introduced a lot of newcomers to the hobby. Bonding over their shared interest, many became lifelong friends who spent many hours with Ralph reloading ammunition and testing their marksmanship at the Winchester Canyon rifle range.
Ralph also loved to take daily walks at the Wilcox nursery. Over the last 30 years, he and his beloved and faithful canine companions (all of whom were named “Skippy”) met, shared stories and made friends with many who also found solace in nature. In the early years, he was seen walking with a wooden stick as a cane and in recent months with a walker with wheels. Anyone frequenting the property would have eventually crossed paths with Ralph and his canine friends. His favorite spot was the pile of logs overlooking the water where he would sit for hours staring at the ocean and dreaming of old times. Ralph, renowned for his dry wit could be heard asking the walkers without a dog “Do you know that it is against the law to walk out here without a dog?”.
In recent years, Ralph was unable to drive and handle the daily chores of his home. A wonderful, caring and multitalented woman by the name of Denise J. was hired to assist Ralph and to keep our dear friend “out of trouble”. Denise faced a challenge with the spirited and fiercely independent Ralph, but with kindness and patience, she was able to motivate him to continue with the care and maintenance of his guns, taking his beloved walks, and participating in life.
Ralph leaves behind his sister Patricia Hunt, her sons Martin and Rodger, and his family who all reside in the UK. Patricia’s daughter Valerie resides in New Zealand with her husband. Over the years Patricia made several trips to Santa Barbara, leaving behind her family in England to care for her brother Ralph when he needed her help. She sends these words: “My brother Ralph was always a “nature boy” who loved the country, the mountains and the sea. As a teenager, he used to walk with our dog Skippy up into the hills and open country behind our hometown in Pennsylvania. He loved living in beautiful Santa Barbara; with his boat in early years, the mountains and walks on the nursery along cliffs behind his house near the ocean. Ralph always enjoyed being with good friends and talking with them on many subjects. To those good friends, who made his life happier we, as a family, send our gratitude. We ourselves have many treasured memories of our times spent with him. Ralph was very special and we, his family, cared deeply for him.” With love from Pat and her entire family.
Denise, Joette and Marry all say: “Thank you Ralph for the knowledge and good times you shared us.”
Other close friends add: “He was a gentle soul and we are sure that he was warmly received in the great shooting range in the sky. He was a patriot, a great friend and his loss will be felt deeply.”
An informal celebration of our friend Ralph will be held at the Douglas Family Preserve, November 22, 2008, at 1:00 pm. Take Cliff Drive and turn on Mesa Lane towards the water. Keep on Mesa Lane to Medcliff Road and turn right. Park on street wherever available. Walk along the bluffs to the log pile. In lieu of flowers please donate to your favorite charity. Our heartfelt thanks also goes to Dr. Joel Brandt and his great staff for all their loving care.
Whether you are able to attend or not, know that Ralph would want you to smile at the life he lived and the place he has gone to . . .