February 1, 1918 – June 30, 2016
We are sadden by the passing of our friend and fellow Kiwanian, Ralph Schwarzkopf. Ralph was a great community leader and a club member since 1957. He will be missed by all who knew him.
Ralph H. Schwarzkopf, 98, of Arden, NC died at his home on Thursday, June 30, 2016.
Ralph was born into a community of German immigrants in Bach, Sebewaing Township, Michigan on February 1, 1918 and spoke only German for the first six years of his life. He was the son of the late Hugo Traugott Schwarzkopf and Clara Sting Schwarzkopf. At age five he moved to Saginaw, Michigan, where he lived until he left for college at the University of Michigan. He graduated in 1941 with a Bachelor’s degree in Geology.
Ralph made his mark as an outstanding athlete in the field of track. His running ability was discovered during his junior year in high school when he place third in the half-mile run, and his team won the state championship in Michigan. In his senior year he placed second in the half-mile run. His running talents assured his acceptance to the University of Michigan, a track powerhouse in the Midwest, where he rose to captain of the track team by his senior year. There he set a one-mile record of 4:15 and a two-mile record of 9:03:06. Ralph was the second-best US distance runner and was selected for an international tour of the US track team in 1939. Ralph was a two-time NCAA All-American (1939-40) and a two-time Big Ten champion, winning the outdoor two-mile run in 1939 and the indoor two-mile run in 1940. He was a fellow competitor with Louis Zamperini, known through the novel and film Unbroken. At the age of 21 he was part of a foursome that set a world record for the 3, 200-meter relay race (7:32). His team began to train for the 1940 Olympics to be held in Helsinki, Finland and competed all over Europe—in London, Glasgow, Basel, and Paris. The team was in Monte Carlo at the outbreak of World War II, and the consequent cancelation of the 1940 Olympics dashed the team’s dreams of competing in the Olympics.
After graduation, Ralph joined the 557th Army Air Forces Weather Wing in 1941 and was sent to Asheville, NC where he met and married Ann Elizabeth Glenn (d. 1970). His career at R. Stanford Webb Insurance Agency spanned 53 years (1946-1999) where he served as Vice-President and Treasurer. He was also a member of the Society of Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriters and President of the Asheville Insurance Agents Exchange of Western Carolina.
In 1971 Ralph married Asheville pediatrician Mary Helen McConnell.
He had many hobbies such as hunting gem stones in the Franklin, NC and Spruce Pine, NC mountains, playing tennis and golf and playing bridge. He continued to run well into his 70’s and was still playing golf and tennis into his 80’s.
Ralph was the President of the Western Carolina University of Michigan Alumni Association, Secretary of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Asheville Kiwanis Club since 1957, and a member of the Biltmore Forest Country Club. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Asheville Art Museum and active in the United Way. During his retirement, he served as a volunteer mentor for the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Western North Carolina where he taught English to immigrants and as an IRS income tax assistant. Ralph has been a faithful member of the Cathedral of All Souls (Episcopal) for 73 years where he served as an usher.
Ralph is survived by his wife Mary Helen McConnell Schwarzkopf, son Ralph L. Schwarzkopf and daughter-in-law Christina Seay Schwarzkopf of Knoxville, TN, son S. Kent Schwarzkopf of Asheville, stepdaughter Helen McConnell of Washington, DC, grandchildren R. Scott Schwarzkopf and wife Jill, Lara Schwarzkopf Winterberger and husband Jeff and four great grandchildren, Mary Rose and Reid Schwarzkopf and Kara and Courtney Black, a sister Marian Bennett of Lansing, MI and a brother Leroy Schwarzkopf of Carlsbad, CA.
The funeral service will be held at the Cathedral of All Souls on Thursday, July 7, 2016 at 11:00 am. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall.
Memorials may be made to the Cathedral of All Souls, 9 Swan Street, Asheville, NC 28803 or to Sleep Tight Kids (founded by Jill Schwarzkopf), 72 Baldwin Road, Arden, NC 28704.
Groce Funeral Home at Lake Julian is assisting the family.