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Ralph Wiliam SOUDER

23 Apr 1901 to 19 Jun 1989

Ralph was the eldest of five children of Abbie Elizabeth Sausser and William Joseph Souder.  He was his mother’s pride and joy as well as being her helper.  He returned her live and pride in abundance.  Theirs was a special relationship.
    When he was 11, he went to work in the onion fields to help support his family.  They were living in Ohio at the time.  When he was 13, they returned to Washington, D.C.  At 15, he was working for his father as a messenger boy.  At 16, he became an apprentice machinist.  At 19, he quit and made the trip of his lifetime to Alaska, with his friend Carl Porch.  It was on this trip that he got his tattoo.  He was very proud of this macho action and displayed it proudly to his mother.  She burst into tears and broke his heart with her words.  She said I brought you into this world, a perfect baby and I was so proud of you.  Now…  He fills with tears when he tells the story and I do too.  It is not until you become a parent yourself, that you begin knowing or understanding the feelings.
    One of his happiest memories in his childhood was staying at Aunt Dale’s on her farm in Ohio.  He always said that the first one out was the best one dressed.  They kept all their hats, mittens, and scarves in a big box by the door and they just grabbed whatever they wanted as they went out.  Ralph has always been at home wherever he hung his hat so just fit right in with the family.
    He remembers turning the wringer on the family washing machine until Alfred was old enough to do it.  I imagine he did many things for his mother since he is so handy with his hands.
    Money was always scarce and he is full of praise for his mother for being able to do well with very little.  One of his favorite meals to this day was economy meal for them.  She made gravy of the short ribs to go on day old bread.  As a result of their always having day old bread, we had fresh bread every day in our house.  I can remember buying ground round and not just plain old hamburger, either.  And we always had enough in the pot for whoever dropped in at supper time.
    R.W. took his responsibilities as eldest son very seriously.  Ralph took it so seriously that he offended Mother, (his wife, Flo) deeply when he gave up their little cottage to save his parent’s house during the depression.  It made sense economically because there was more equity in his parent’s house.  I can imagine how hard it was for her to move in with her in-laws.  They have some special memories from that time though.  R.W. lost his job, went to the library, did some reading and research and decided to make a run to Florida for oranges and sell them off the back of his truck.  This was so successful that he soon had a fruit stand at H Street (in Washington, D.C.); hired some young drivers and made more money than he did later at the Navy Yard.  He re-purchased their cottage for cash.  The Rossignol brothers were the young truck drivers and they became a big part of our lives. 
Mother had a young welfare girl for a mother’s helper and the Rossignols were there too, whenever they could be spared and Mother needed them.  When I asked Mother one day when Daddy was going to visit again, he decided to get a stay-at-home job, machinist at the Navy Yard.  For many years he worked the grave yard shift to make the extra $2 a week, also to have time to work his second job during the day.  The fruit stand was not as successful without his hand to guide them and eventually he had to give them up.  Then he did truck repair for Uncle Johnnie and Bob Lyles and other.  I can’t remember a time that he didn’t work two jobs until he had the welding shop. 
He stayed active in the Masons and the Men’s Club.  He took us to the beach every Friday during the summer.  We spent every vacation in Alabama for quite a few years until he decided that the road went two ways.  Our most likely Sunday activity was a drive, Mother’s favorite recreation.  Often we went to see Uncle Harry and Aunt Helen, or Thelma and Biebs; occasionally Aunt Esther and Uncle Buddy or Aunt Abbie and Uncle Johnnie, or maybe to Grandma’s.
He remodeled the kitchen to Mother’s height; consequently we washed dishes at shoulder height.  He traded work with Uncle Johnnie and had him landscape her yard. As our family grew, Mother wanted to buy the house on the hill (where the Deaver’s live) but daddy mindful of the depression, built dormers in the attic, again on a barter arrangement with Bob Lyles this time.  He also opened the living and dining room into one large room and built a fireplace.  He hired a bricklayer for that but acted as helper for him.  Many a time we dressed in front of a trash fire.
He believes in letting everyone do his own thing-differences are interesting.  One of his child raising rules, was not to say ‘no’ unless you had a reason to say it.
Daddy became Pop with Billy Connor.  Guess Chuck and Margaret picked it up. I didn’t learn until years later that he would have liked to be called Granddaddy.  He worked very hard to give Chuck a cast iron stomach like his.  Chuck did well but the creamed onion fed at the age of 1 just about did me in.  It was about ten years before I ate creamed onions again.  When Chuck was 8, he wrote a paper about his best friend, Pop.
When he married Vi, we didn’t see as much of him.  They did a variety of things including acting as house parents at a Methodist home for teenagers.  They bought a place on the Eastern shore, Daddy got his boat.  Finally, they took Tony and loved and nurtured him for many years.  Until Tony became too heavy for Vi to carry and Daddy was too lame to carry him for her.
Daddy retires periodically from his machinist job but says he likes the good things of life too much to stay permanently retired.  Also he enjoys working, says it keeps him going.  His employer is good to him as are his working companions.
Pop always describes himself as a jack of all trades, master of none.  He has a lively curiosity, great intelligence and certainly exceptional mechanical ability. There was nothing that he couldn’t fix around the house.  He says if he couldn’t fix it so that no one else could either.  He was not going to be outdone.  He did a lot of bartering to get things done well; an idea that has always been popular with the professionals.  He was a man ahead of his time and with the least bit of cooperation from his family, could have had more success in the financial field.
Pop is very outgoing, loves people of all kinds.  I used to think the more strange the better.  But it was some of his ‘strange’ friends that loaned us their cottage at the beach.  It was also through some of his ‘strange’ friends that we got Duke.   
Pop also loves to read.   When he took me with him on his Saturday excursions, we always went to used book stores.  He would stride along swiftly with me running to keep up.  He said he stopped taking me when I learned to talk but it must have been later than that because I remember going.
He is fiercely independent, first and foremost, a family man.  He is proud that we all take after him in those respects. 

        Written by: Betty Louise Souder Spittle (age 56) in December 1983

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