Ralph H. Sukeforth, 86, of Washington, died at home June 15 after a short, but valiant battle with leukemia.
Ralph was born in Bath on Dec. 20, 1930. He was the oldest of eight children and learned about hard work at a young age. He attended school in Waldoboro and worked on the family farm until he enlisted in the Navy. He was on active duty during the Korean War and when he wasn’t stationed on land in Norfolk, Va., or Cuba, he was stationed aboard the USS Iwo Jima, spending his time at sea working as a Gunnery Sergeant. While home on leave in October of 1952, he met his future wife and after a whirlwind romance, they were married Dec. 17, 1952, a mere six weeks after their first meeting.
The immediate years following his honorable discharge from the Navy, Ralph took a job working in the woods. Regardless of what else he did for work at any point in his life, he was always connected with working in the woods in some way.
In the early years, his winter income was derived from working in the woods, while during the middle years he was either clearing land for his gravel pits or cutting logs to sell at the mill, or to saw into lumber. He was determined to better himself and be a good provider.
After working in the woods year-round for several years, Ralph bought his first dump truck and took a job hauling for the state, and later he worked for Mariners Paving Plant hauling for them. He dreamed of being self-employed and he gradually acquired the heavy equipment he needed to do so. He bought a backhoe and a bulldozer before finally taking the plunge to self-employment. He was an excavation contractor and was doing work that he loved, which included earthwork, building roads, driveways, digging cellars, putting in septic tanks and leach fields, etc. He bought a new truck and business grew as his reputation for honesty and quality work spread. His skill at operating his equipment left many satisfied customers who often became repeat customers. He was basically a one-man operation, but his son did work for him before he, too, went into business for himself.
Ralph and Marilyn made a great team; as a couple, as parents, and as business partners. They complemented each other very well. While Ralph did the site work and actual job, Marilyn handled all paperwork and billing.
Ralph continued this work for many years. He did excavation most of the year and during the winter months when the ground was frozen he worked in the woods cutting and selling firewood, Christmas trees, and cutting logs to haul to the mill. They had many lean years, but somehow they always figured out some way to make ends meet.
In 1978 Ralph and Marilyn took what they considered the biggest gamble of their lives when they invested nearly all they had into purchasing an old closed up gravel pit located on a 100-acre piece of land in Washington. They were now business owners, but were starting literally from the ground up. Ralph stopped working away from home at other job sites and began working on opening the gravel pit. That required a lot of time and hard work. He cleared some of the land of trees, excavated the soil and separated it into the different types of soil used in excavating construction work. Gradually as business grew he bought more equipment. He built a saw mill and planing mill and he cut all of the logs off the land to saw into the lumber that was used to build their house, garage, and other outbuildings on the property.
Ralph and his wife were hard workers, but they could play hard, too. They bought a motor home and spent winters in Florida until the drive became too much. Back home Ralph made a campground and for many years friends, relatives, and friends of friends had an open invitation to camp there on the second weekend of every month. Several campers would pile in and enjoy a relaxing weekend by the campfire or manmade swimming pond that he dug himself with the help of his son.
Ralph could be found working somewhere on the property every day. He had a strong work ethic and loved what he did. Ralph was always driven to do his best and he expected the same from others. He wasn’t happy if he wasn’t up in the loader separating dirt, loading trucks, or doing something on the land he’d spent nearly 40 years developing. Ralph had a strong will to live and wasn’t ready to die until he could no longer go outside or to the garage and work, which is what he loved to do most.
He was predeceased by his loving wife, Marilyn A. (Mendall) Sukeforth in 2010, with whom he shared 57 years of a very loving, happy, and prosperous marriage; parents, Glenwood R. and Dora L. (Bishop) Sukeforth; grandson, Michael Brooks; sister, Edna Staples; brother, John Sukeforth; son-in-law, Warren Little; and closest uncle, Walter Sukeforth.
He is survived by loving children, Penelope Little of Nobleboro, Larry Sukeforth and wife Wanda of Jefferson, and Nancy Lake and husband Mark of Jefferson; granddaughters, Jennifer Packard of Nobleboro, Rebecca Fournier and husband Donald of Washington, Melissa Doody of Washington; grandsons, Matthew Little and Wayne Little of Nobleboro; four great-grandchildren; siblings, Lillian Saksek of Jefferson, Glenda Dore and husband Alden of Ocala, Fla., Phillip Sukeforth and wife Sandra of Waldoboro, Mary Peaslee and husband Philip of Jefferson, and Robert Sukeforth and wife Vivian of Union; and close friend Patricia Wing.
A graveside service will take place at 2 p.m., Thurs., June 22 at the Sukeforth Angels Cemetery in Washington with Pastor Tom Rawley officiating. He will be laid to rest with his beloved wife and grandson on the land he loved. Everyone is invited to gather at Ralph’s home for an informal reception after the service.
In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy may be made in his memory to the Maine Cancer Foundation, 170 US Rte. 1, Suite 250, Falmouth, ME 04105.
To extend online condolences to the family please visit www.hallfuneralhomes.com.
Hall’s of Waldoboro has care of the arrangements.