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A Denney for Your Thoughts: Remembering Ralph Hood

Ralph Hood

By Connie Denney

Soon after hearing of his death, I knew that I wanted my next words for this space on the Erwin Record’s Viewpoint Page to be a remembrance of Ralph Hood.  Remembering him is easy.  Choosing the words to wrap around the personality, not so much.  

Let’s start with “funny.”  Those who knew him, I feel sure, would agree.  Oprah Winfrey said so when he was on her show!  But, that does not encompass his character, qualities, skills and talents.  Now, I’m not suggesting Renaissance man.  Ralph would have laughed at that, even if he took a bit of pleasure at the thought.

Right away I wanted to go back and re-read Ralph’s own words written into columns for this space.  I enjoyed reading them the first time around, as I do those of other local columnists who take turns contributing.  Although I had read them as they were published over the years, I still especially noted the numerous and impressive topics about which he wrote.  They spoke to the man he was.

Just as you could not know him without knowing he thought and spoke humor, you would also have known he was from the South. One column was devoted to his affinity for boiled peanuts from roadside stops.

With a childhood guided by Mother, a teacher, and Daddy, a school superintendent, lessons learned — not necessarily from textbooks — made good fodder for stories.  So did young Ralph’s adventures with siblings and friends.

Speaking of fodder, I am reminded of his column about Trigger, the pony, one of whose former boy owners had warned, “’…sometimes he wanta go where he wanta go.’”  

Of course, the nature of antics changed as the boy grew.  It was AFTER his college days at Clemson University that he and his brother roomed together in Atlanta, the setting for “The Great Water Fight,”  inspiration for another column.  So, the fun and funny times continued.

Sometimes Ralph combined humor and seriousness to make his point.  But, there was no doubt the place family held in his priorities.  “Wife Gail” came through clearly as not only an object of affection, but also of well-placed respect and admiration.  Pride in their three children and one really smart grandson could not be missed.

Then, there was aviation!  Ralph not only flew planes for over 30 years, he could expound on pretty much anything airplane-related. After all, he had been involved in the industry through sales, insurance, training, speaking, writing…   Must say I was impressed but not surprised to learn he was in the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame.

You need to understand, too, that he did not shy away from addressing tough issues in his columns, including child abuse, gun violence and racial segregation. He even turned inward to reveal his own problem with depression. It seemed his motivation was to help others, as he talked about the importance of exercise in fighting the condition.

Ralph expressed himself as an author, columnist, professional humorist and motivational speaker. Having been among friends in his “audience” over coffee downtown at Steel Rails many times, I also heard him hold forth spontaneously!

One of his stories that I found really special, though, was in a different, more solemn setting.  The big man had the children gathered around him near the base of the pulpit at Erwin Presbyterian Church.  He told them of the wonders of flying through a double rainbow.  The kids were not the only ones with takeaway points that Sunday. 

This memory seems a fitting context for saying goodbye.  Somehow, though, I kept tending to think in present tense as I wrote this piece.  I expect that will continue for a while.