RAPID CITY | Ralph Charles Fitzner, 93, passed away on Oct. 3, 2018.
Ralph was born Feb. 19, 1925, to Fred and Emma (Hauff) Fitzner in Colome. He was one of eight children: Orville, Harold, Bill, Ralph, Virginia, Ruth, Helen, and Esther. The family later moved to Edgemont. His parents were from Germany. They homesteaded, but lost it when the banks failed and the depression hit in the 1930s.
After grade school, Ralph worked as a ranch hand and a Cat Skinner until he was drafted to the Army during WW II at age 18. He helped to liberate the French from Germany. He was honorably discharged on June 29, 1946.
Ralph married Dorothy Richardson on July 22, 1951. He took advantage of the GI Bill and earned a degree in diesel mechanics. Ralph was good with his hands and liked repairing things. He was hired at the SD Cement Plant and became their head mechanic until he retired after 37 years. He was instrumental in installing a union for the cement plant. He also worked evenings at the Sinclair gas station and repaired cars on the side.
Going through the depression made Ralph very self-reliant. He demonstrated this strong work ethic to everyone who knew him. He was honest and willing to help anyone in need, especially his family and friends. In his shop at home he passed on his vast knowledge of welding, fabrication, and mechanics to his three sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons. In the early 1950s, Ralph and Dorothy built a home and shop in Rapid Valley close to the Rapid Valley Race Track where he helped build several race cars.
Ralph was preceded in death by his wife, Dorothy; brothers, Harold and Orville; sisters, Ruth and Virginia; and grandson, Jeremy. He leaves behind his sisters, Helen and Esther; his children, Howard, Karen, Marvin, and Jamie; grandchildren, Danny, Jerry, Jake, Zachary, Joshua; and great-grandchildren, Tyler, Christian and Amber.
After retirement he loved to roam the Black Hills to fish, hunt, and gold pan with his friend Jim Holter.
Ralph considered himself a common working man, but was well read and liked discussing anything from politics to the best place to catch a big rainbow trout. Those friends and relatives that knew him well will miss his warmth, intelligence, wit and charity.
A short graveside service will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 11, at Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis. A celebration and lunch in honor of Ralph will be served at 1 p.m. at the Eagles Club, 1410 E. Centre St.
In lieu of flowers, a memorial can be made to your local VFW.