Obituary of Ralph Neal Smith
Ralph Neal “Buck” Smith
April 7,1925 to March 6,2023
Ralph Neal Smith passed away peacefully on March 6, one month shy of his 98th birthday, at his home in Santa Cruz. He was preceded in death by his wife of 71 years, Evelyn (Stalvey) Smith, his eldest son Larry of Phoenix, Arizona, and his brother Robert L. Smith of Willow Glen. He is survived by Larry’s wife, Angie, his son Glenn Smith and his wife Donna of Ben Lomond, his son Brian Smith and his wife Patty Griffin of Santa Cruz, and his daughter Gayle Borreson of Scotts Valley. He was a proud grandparent of 9 and great-grandparent of 12.
Buck was born in San Jose and grew up in Mountain View and Willow Glen with his brother Bob. When Buck was 7, an officer at Moffett Field who was a friend of Buck’s dad offered to have Buck and Bob come to the Field to see the Airship Akron. Buck and Bob got to board the ship and tour the inside and cockpit. Because of his age at the time, Buck was probably the last person alive to have been in one of the Navy’s two airships. Eighty years later, he spoke about his childhood experience to a tour group at Point Sur.
After graduating from San Jose High in 1943, Buck enlisted in the Army Air Corp, now the Air Force. He was stationed at Moody Field in Valdosta, Georgia, with the 5th Air Force, 3rd Bomb Group, 89th Squadron, training as a Navigator and Bombardier on the A26 Invader. When the time came for his bomb group to deploy to Europe, he came down with pneumonia and was not cleared for flight by base doctors. He was reassigned state side and began training for the invasion of Japan.
During his time at Moody, he frequented a soda fountain in downtown Valdosta where he met the love of his life, Evelyn, who was working behind the counter. When Buck returned home to San Jose after the war, he began writing Evelyn and not long after, he drove to Georgia and brought Evelyn back to California where they were married in 1947. They were married for 71 years before her death in 2019.
Buck and Evelyn lived in Spartan City while he finished his BA in Industrial Arts at San Jose State. In 1948 they had their first child, Larry. In 1949 Buck finished his degree and started working as a draftsman for an engineering company in San Jose. In 1954, Buck started teaching in the Cambrian School District. He taught mechanical drawing, woodshop and metal shop. Most of his career was spent at Ida Price Middle School. In the early fifties, Buck and Evie bought their first home in Cambrian Park where they eventually completed their family with the addition of Glenn, Brian and Gayle. In 1964 he finished a Masters in Industrial Arts from SJS and
built a new family home in Scotts Valley in which their 4 children grew up and finished schooling. When Buck retired in 1983, he and Evelyn retired to Redding, California, and moved several times through the years, living in Paso Robles, Nampa, Idaho, and Congress, Arizona, before settling in Galt, California.
Buck was an avid outdoorsman. He loved to fish and backpack. Over his life, he covered over 2,500 miles hiking the Sierra and Cascades with his good friends Don McPherson and Leonard Turoski. His favorite places, where he annually backpacked, were the Middle and Main Forks of the Kings River.
Buck was always involved in sports wherever he lived. He officiated high school football and basketball in the Santa Clara Valley and umpired little league in Scotts Valley throughout the 60’s and 70’s. In the early 60’s he managed the fast pitch softball league in Campbell. He played tennis until the age of 95, playing in senior leagues in every city he moved to.
Dad was a great father who taught all of us to appreciate the outdoors, how to fish, play baseball, golf, tennis and many other joys of life. We were very fortunate to have had him in our lives for so many years. Thank you, Dad, for making us into the people we are. We love you, and we miss you!
Buck was a friend to all. He could engage almost anyone anywhere in conversation and was blessed throughout his life with many friends and close relations. He especially enjoyed time with his nephew, Chris, his nieces, Claudia and Cindy and their families, dear friends of which there were many, Bill and Melanie Blockie and Tom and Carolyn Eckert who were life long friends and Tony and Jan Hair who gave dad company when he sorely needed it after the passing of mom.
The family would like to give special thanks to the Dominican Oaks staff for giving Dad a pleasant and social place to spend his last 16 months. Special thanks are due to Brenda for her guidance and help in making his move possible. We’d also like to thank Hospice of Santa Cruz who made his final days more peaceful for him and his children. We extend a big thank you to family and friends who always kept in touch with him and whose conversation and company were a major part of Dad’s happiness in life!To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Ralph Smith, please visit Tribute Store