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lesson learned. Fortunately, Ralph’s next foray into farming worked out for
the better. Ralph, along with his brother Bruce and others, founded Cranwest
Farms, which owns and operates a 300-acre cranberry farm in Delta.
Before working with Ralph, one’s knowledge of cranberries was likely confined
to holiday meals involving turkeys. Soon you came to understand
about flooding bogs, frost control and the perils of the blackheaded fireworm.
Every Thanksgiving, unfailingly, Ralph would bring a large cooler of
freshly harvested cranberries to the office for everyone to enjoy.
Ralph went on to become one of the foremost authorities on cranberry
farming, serving as director of Ocean Spray, a Massachusetts-based farmers’
cooperative and the third largest such cooperative in the world. While at
Ocean Spray, he served as vice-chairman of its board and was tapped to be
chairman, but after much soul searching turned down the honour, believing
time with his family and obligations to his clients were more important.
Ralph also served as chairman of the B.C. Cranberry Growers Association,
served as chairman of the Cranberry Institute of North America and was a
founding director of the B.C. Expropriation Association.
In another life, Ralph might have been a historian. He was a reservoir of
knowledge concerning the history of Richmond and South Delta; he was
famous for his stories of the early farming community and notable events.
He regaled us with tales of the old Lansdowne racetrack, the first powered
flight in Western Canada that took off from Minoru Field and the characters
that populated Richmond’s early years. Truth be told, as his partners, some
of us heard the stories more than once, but that never dimmed his enthusiasm
for a retelling. Those of us who heard the stories were fascinated by the
precise details and vivid imagery. A typical Ralph story might commence,
“It was a Saturday in 1962. It was cloudy in the morning but cleared up
around noon … ” I never knew if this was poetic licence or the product of a
prodigious memory, but as a young lawyer I was enthralled nonetheless.
When the Canada Line rapid transit came to Richmond, Ralph was in touch
with government officials to ensure that the final stop would be known as
“Brighouse”, in reference to the pioneer family of the same name, rather
than the mundane “Richmond Centre” that had been announced. Ralph
contributed to a coffee-table book on the history of the area titled Richmond,
Child of the Fraser and hoped to devote time in retirement to the Richmond
archives—but alas, he never got the chance.
Ralph loved his community and gave back at every opportunity. He
instilled that love in his colleagues so that volunteerism was a given if you
worked at his firm. Ralph was the founding chairman of the Richmond Hospital
Foundation, a member of the Richmond Gateway Steering Committee,