A Life Lived: A smile was part of Ralph Gouge’s apparel

Published 9:16 am Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Comedienne Phyllis Diller often said, “A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.”

A smile was a part of Ralph Gouge’s everyday apparel. It was something he wore day in and day out. He smiled on sunny days, on cloudy days, when times were good, and when times were bad.

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“My dad was a very positive, fun-loving person,” said Judy Pierce of her father’s zest for life.

Ralph Gouge died August 8 at the age of 92. He had lived a long and full life.

Ralph grew up in the Hunter community, one of eight children of Frank Leslie and Lena Rainbolt Gouge. He was a World War II veteran, and was at Normandy when it was invaded by allied troops. “He was a real patriot and very proud to have served his country in the military,” said Judy.

Ralph had retired as a machinist at UNIVAC when a young man in his 40s due to a heart condition. In fact, he was one of the first persons in this area to undergo open heart surgery. However, his heart condition did not keep him from enjoying life. He enjoyed dancing, gardening, and was an avid fisherman.

“Daddy enjoyed growing a vegetable garden. He grew tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, beans, potatoes, etc. Just as much as he enjoyed growing it, Daddy loved to gather it in. Some he canned, and he always shared his harvest with others,” Judy said.

Ralph was a member of the Elizabethton Dance Club and almost always attended the Senior Dances at the Elizabethton Elks Lodge. He was also a member of the Elizabethton Senior Center, and enjoyed attending many of their activities and being with friends.

However, his greatest love was children. “Whenever a child came into the room, his face lit up. He was a wonderful father to me and my sister and a loving and caring grandfather and great grandfather. He reached out to a lot of children and was a father figure to some,” said Judy. His obituary noted that he was “Daddy” and “Papaw” to many.

One of the ways he connected with his grandsons was by taking them fishing. His favorite fishing spot was Watauga Lake.

“My father was the best. He was a great provider for his family, and was always there for us. He enjoyed people and he especially enjoyed the holidays and parties,” said Judy.

Ralph was preceded in death by his wife, Orlena. They were married 47 years.

Because of his love for children, his family asked that memorials be made to the Christmas Fund for Underprivileged Children in Bluff City. That gesture by his family would have brought a smile to Ralph Gouge’s face, and this Christmas will bring a smile to more than one child.