Ralph's Story

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HERMON - Ralph Clinton Keef, brother of Aubrey, husband of Allison, father of Cheryl, Brad and Pam, grandfather of John, Julia and Laurel, brother-in-law of Charlene and father-in-law of Michael, Brad's wife, and Mike, died on July 9, 2015 at his home in Hermon, Maine. Ralph suffered a series of strokes following two years of living with mild cognitive loss and Parkinsonism. For the last six weeks he was in the care of his family and Hospice of Eastern Maine.

Son of Ruth (Mills) Keef and Joseph E. Keef, born in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, in Dec. of 1933, Ralph was raised in Vanceboro, Maine, and was known fondly to hometown friends and family as Ralphie. A University of Maine graduate with an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering and a master's in pulp and paper technology, he was a member of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society and of Phi Gamma Delta. Ralph's father, Joe, and grandfather, Charles, owned land and woods operations in Washington County, Maine, and Charlotte County, New Brunswick. In his father's honor, he established a named scholarship at the U Maine Pulp and Paper Foundation.

Ralph's love of adventure, hunting and fishing inspired him to hitchhike to Alaska from Orono in 1952 after his freshman year of university. There he worked as a gandy dancer on the Alaska Railroad. He met Allison Armstrong in 1961 in Sitka, Alaska, where he had moved after graduation to work on pulp mill startups in Ketchikan and Sitka. They were married in Bangor in Jan. of 1962 and followed the paper trail to coastal Oregon; Woodland and Millinocket, Maine; Nova Scotia; and northern New York, with some time of consulting for Montreal based firms. Ralph's dual American-Canadian citizenship came to light when he moved to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, to become general manager of a Swedish-owned pulp and paper mill.

Ralph loved the slow green beauty of spring and the sharp ferny odor of fall days. He told stories of early morning walks to ponds, of tracking deer or hunting birds around Vanceboro and what he considered his natal river, the St. Croix. Alaskan hunting and fishing days and years of fishing Spednic Lake and New Brunswick's Miramichi River were augmented by trips to northern Quebec, the Gaspé, Newfoundland and Labrador. From his first Victory Garden planted at age 6, Ralph gardened every year of his life, including his time in the U.S. Army.

In 1994 he and Allison returned to Maine to enjoy retirement. He became an active member of the Maine Council of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, serving as president of the council for several years in the late 1990s. He was proud of the cooperation of many groups, which made the Penobscot River Restoration Project possible. A supporter of the Downeast Salmon Federation located in Columbia Falls, he understood that restoring riverine habitat has far reaching benefit for sea run fish and for entire communities and ecosystems. One of his last public acts, in April of 2015, was extemporaneous testimony before the Marine Resources Committee of the Maine Legislature in support of continued access to the St. Croix River watershed of sea-run alewives. In March of 2015 the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) presented him with the Lee Wulff Conservation Award.

A special interest of Ralph's was the Fish Friends program of the Maine Council ASF, which places fish tanks and eyed salmon eggs in classrooms across Maine.

Ralph's quiet love of nature, his gracious kindness, and his willingness to give the benefit of the doubt and to not hold grudges made his life an example for his family and for others.

We thank Dr. Charles Burger for his compassionate care. We thank the many individuals from Hospice of Eastern Maine and Premier Home Care who provided care during the last six weeks of Ralph's life. Our thanks to those who visited with Ralph in the sunny alcove of his home to share stories of fishing, hunting, friendship and family. He greeted all with a smile and a "Well, well, well." Although his ability to speak was affected by strokes, he communicated with words, gestures, a raised eyebrow and a chuckle.

We will celebrate Ralph's life at a later date.

The University of Maine Pulp and Paper Foundation at Orono and the Downeast Salmon Federation in Columbia Falls would welcome gifts in Ralph's memory.

Arrangements are by Memorial Alternatives of Bangor, Maine.
Published on  July 15, 2015
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