- Lasting Memories - Ralph Rawles Wheeler's memorial

Ralph Rawles Wheeler
May 17, 1934-March 20, 2023
Palo Alto, California

Ralph Rawles Wheeler passed away peacefully in his home in Palo Alto, California, on March 20, 2023. He was 88 years old.

Ralph was born on May 17, 1934, in El Paso, Texas. His family moved to La Junta, Colorado, when Ralph was still a young boy when his parents bought the local newspaper, the La Junta Democrat.

When he was a teenager, Ralph joined the Koshares, a group of Scouts that visited Native American tribes to learn traditional songs, dances, crafts, and costume making. He traveled with the Koshares to perform in places such as Santa Fe, Yellowstone, and Chicago, something he described as one of the best experiences of his youth.

In 1956, Ralph graduated with a degree in mathematics from the University of Denver. Though Ralph’s education prepared him for a career in engineering, he was also passionate about studying the arts and in 1957, he moved to New York City to see as many plays, musicals, and operas as he could get standing room tickets for.

Later that year, Ralph got a job as an associate engineer for a computer simulation facility at Lockheed in California. In October 1957, the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite, and Ralph took an interest in space. He worked long shifts for missile launches, developed spaceflight simulations, and designed capsules to return photos on film from space. Ralph also attended graduate courses at Stanford University from 1960 to 1961.

In 1963, Ralph married Jackie Amis in Carmel, CA. The couple later had three children, Megan, Casey, and J.T. The family lived in the home Ralph purchased in Palo Alto in 1963.

In 1964 Ralph moved to Nassau Bay, Texas, to set up a simulator for the Apollo missions to the moon. After about a year and a half at the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, where he managed the simulation group and wrote programs for the Lunar Excursion Module simulator that the astronauts trained on, Ralph and his family moved back to their home in Palo Alto.

Ralph’s work with computers led him to become the head of the 1971 Fall Joint Computer Conference, the largest conference of its kind at the time. He later became chairman of the National Computer Conference Board in 1976.

Ralph often said the two most valuable things in life were relationships and experiences. He and Jackie took the family on trips to places like Taos, Yosemite, Death Valley, Hawaii, and Disneyland. In the 1980s Ralph hiked across the Grand Canyon, completing the Rim to Rim to Rim with J.T. and his Boy Scout troop.

Ralph and his family were active members of the Greenmeadow community for 60 years. Ralph served on the board, managing buildings and grounds. He supervised the remodel of the nursery school office. He volunteered at swim meets and he attended every 4th of July parade. Greenmeadow events such as the Memorial and Labor Day picnics were very important to him. He and Jackie along with Don and Holly Gautier also hosted an annual court party every autumnal equinox where they welcomed many new members and celebrated the “old-timers” while they built community in the neighborhood.

When AYSO came to Palo Alto, Ralph got involved to support the community as he often did. He coached his children’s teams and donated his time to organize field scheduling.

After his children went to college, Ralph developed a love of race walking. He became an active member in the Golden Gate Race Walkers club and organized many of the Palo Alto races sponsored by the club. He competed in various events, including the marathon, at the World Veterans’ Athletics Championships in Finland, Japan, South Africa and Spain.

Throughout his life he and Jackie were active in local and national politics, advocating for the election of progressive and diverse leaders as well as mentoring young candidates. Through his activism, Ralph became a founding member the Dean Democratic Club of Silicon Valley.

Ralph will always be remembered by his family and friends for his love of travelling and learning about the world. He organized biannual vacations with his children and grandchildren to some of the most beautiful parts of the country, a tradition that became known as Cuz. He will also be remembered for his willingness to stand up for his beliefs and a strong resolve tinged with the joys of mischief.

His is survived by his wife Jackie, brother John, two daughters Megan (Joe) and Casey, son J.T. (Stacy), and eight grandchildren.

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