His hands were weathered and wrinkled but still strong. They told his story without demanding words and this had always suited him as a simple man. He knew that those at the top of the mountain didn’t fall there and his hands helped relay the story of his climb. Ralph Edward Grinnell was born on January 25, 1929 on a reservation just outside of Mayetta, Kansas. One of six children blessed to Carl and Dora Grinnell, he spent his first days knowing only the comforts of family. His father was a fur trapper, the pelts he sold as soft as his young boy’s hands, and when the swift fox left Kansas so too did the Grinnells. They moved west, settling in Carson City, Nevada where the rail lines connected, and the silver rush had long brought those seeking adventure and prosperity. A city once proclaiming to be “America’s Smallest Capital” couldn’t satisfy a man like Ralph for long and eventually he found himself in Rancho Cordova, California. There Ralph was embraced by love. He lived in an apartment directly above a precocious and beautiful woman named Norma Jean Barber, and for them both this simple twist of fate began a great love affair. They married in fall of 1967 and their two families became one. For nearly fifty years the two were inseparable. Together they built a beautiful family, working their hearts and hands tirelessly, just as Ralph did when he worked the wood and created something unique and wonderful. In 2017, Norma went ahead into the heavens and Ralph waited patiently to again be by her side. On April 20, 2019 his hand met hers once more. It is only love which sets us free. It is only love which sees us home. Those who remain to continue telling his stories, sending him love, and calling him “home” are his children Victoria Barber-Stroudt, Leslie Crawford, Lila Jean (Joseph) D’Orio, Guy Edward Grinnell, and James Eugene Barber; his loving grandchildren Jeremy (Lisa Lammey) Barr, Kelly (Marietta) Henson, John Watson, Rhya Raven-Roper, Deborah Barber, William Barber, Christopher Barber, John Arion Thedy III, Lisa Knight; his great-grandchildren Alexis Barnrieter, Sean Alonzo, Kelby Lammey, August Feeney; and great-great-grandson Aiden Feeney. Ralph and Norma will be inurned together at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, Washington.
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