Mr. Ralph Hall was Laura Hall’s dad – she is one of our longtime residents at 109 Cook Road Prospect Group Residence. I have known Mr. Hall for over 30 years. He was a War Veteran, an Aircraft Engineer, and a Retirement Home Ambassador. He was intelligent, good natured, gentle spirited, but most importantly, he was a devoted husband to Delores and a faithful father to Gary, Richard, and Laura. Since his wife Delores’ passing several years ago, I have had the special privilege and sincere pleasure of occasional visits over coffee at his retirement residence at Elim Park in Cheshire. My last visit with Mr. Hall was January 26th (2018), the day after his 98th birthday. I have always looked so forward to our times together and would often probe him to share stories with me from his past. In his honor, I would like to share a story he shared with me from our last visit together which really touched me and hopefully will encourage and inspire you as it did me. I specifically inquired if he had any really special memories or peak experiences he wished to share with me on that day.
When I arrived, Mr. Hall was sleeping. After about 10 minutes sitting at his bedside he awoke, slowly opening his eyes he seemed to recognize me but it took him a little bit longer to put it together who I was and what I was doing there. As always, Mr. Hall and I talked about the past, we talked about his life, we talked about his daughter Laura, and talked about his family. As always, it was a great time and I cherish these memories with him. He was a good-natured man, a smart man, and a soft-spoken gentleman. He had a wealth of information and remembered so many stories from his past – even at 98 years old. On this occasion, his memory was a little bit cloudier, his speech was a little less sharp, his recollection of dates and times we’re a little off, but his stories were still rich, deep, and moving. He told me one story about a time when he was working in the kitchen washing the dishes at the Avon Old Farms School. He was about 19 years old (nearly 80 years ago) at the time. He really loved that job because it was a very good atmosphere to work, it was warm (temperature) inside, and he was earning some money. He was grateful to work. Mr. Hall especially liked the man that he was working for (his boss) and told me that once his boss found out that he set aside money regularly from his paycheck to send to his mom in Maine, that the boss was so taken by his generosity towards his mom that he was always very generous towards Mr. Hall. As Mr. Hall was leaving that job for the summer, his boss slipped him a $50 bonus on the last day. This was a very big deal, especially back then. Mr. Hall said it brought him to tears because he “loved that job” and he “loved working for that guy”. It just so happened that he fell into another opportunity to work at a ball bearings factory in Plainville Connecticut. With this new opportunity, and steady wages, he was planning to purchase a car with the income that he was getting from his new job. Shortly after he put that plan together he told me that in his heart he decided on a totally different plan. You see his mom lived up in Maine and she was a schoolteacher taking care of some younger siblings and living a very poor and demanding life. Mr. Hall‘s dad died of an infection associated with strep throat when he was 35 years old (about nine years prior to this). Also, one of his mom’s other children died of sudden infant death syndrome in the crib years earlier. Ralph‘s mom lived with much grief but she was very faithful – he considered her quite religious and devout as she had aspirations of becoming a nun before she got married. He described her as an “extremely charismatic woman that everybody loved being around”.
That year Ralph decided to put away money every week from his paycheck as a down payment on a refrigerator for his mother. “A brand new refrigerator”, he said “with the shelves inside” that just came out on the market – because his mother never had a refrigerator. So Ralph went to the local appliance store and put money down on a new refrigerator. He opened up a little account book where regularly he set aside money for that refrigerator; and at the end of several months the refrigerator was to be paid off before Christmas in order to give to his mom when he visited. Ralph went to the appliance store to give them the address in Maine and paid for the refrigerator to be shipped and delivered from Connecticut. Ralph’s only concern was that the gift would not arrive by the time that he had to leave Maine. Knowing that he was going to see his mom for Christmas, he decided he did not want to go empty-handed just in case the refrigerator didn’t arrive timely. Mr. Hall decided to buy her a coat and bring it with him to give it as a gift. When he gave his mom her coat knowing the refrigerator was not there he didn’t say anything to her about that refrigerator. She was so grateful for the coat – and yet he said it was a modest coat; but she loved it and was very thankful and grateful to him. When he was getting ready to return home to CT he told his mom that he really intended to buy her a refrigerator, “a brand new refrigerator with all the bells and whistles”. His mom (her name was Laura) teased him and joked about it. She thought he was kidding. Ralph said “I did buy you that refrigerator, I hoped it would be delivered while I was here – but it was not so I bought you this coat not to come empty-handed” and before she could respond he took out his little book showing all the payments paying off the refrigerator. Mr. Hall’s mom dropped her head and her arms and walked off weeping uncontrollably. She told Ralph that this was the nicest gift that anyone had ever given her and she could not believe that he did such a generous thing.
I wanted to share this story because he told me that it was one of his most wonderful memories. Several years ago Mr. Hall decided to go back to Maine in his 80s for a class reunion. His mom passed away. His dad’s been long gone and much of his family live elsewhere. At this particular event Mr. Hall was approached by one of the local guys that everybody respected. This man told Ralph that his whole family was always the most admired family in all of Millinocket Maine. When Mr. Hall asked why, the answer was not because of their great wealth or their power or their prestige. In fact, they had no wealth, no power, and truthfully, much grief. The reason they were the most admired family in that area was because of “the love they have for each other”. Everyone in the area witnessed their love and admired them for it. What an extraordinary revelation!
Mr. Hall was truly a thoughtful, caring, and generous man. He demonstrated this in his love and devotion to his family for the 30+ years that I have known him. He gave his entire savings along with his Pratt & Whitney Pension to care for and be close to his wife Delores during her struggle with debilitating Alzheimer’s Disease. He always referred to her (his wife) as a “beautiful, sweet little girl” who he was fortunate to have met and love as his wife. Mr. Hall often told me he would give up everything he had in this world to care for her all over again. He loved his family and every time we got together he enthusiastically updated me on Richard and Gary as well. He would never let me leave him without my assurance that I would always look out for Laura through the caring hands of our dedicated workers at GIL Foundation. Everyone at Elim Park knew about Laura and GIL Foundation. When we walked through the Elim Park halls, he would introduce me to everyone and their response was always “I have heard a lot about you.” For years, he would frequently tell people that they (referring to his family) “hit the lottery” when Laura went to live at GIL 109 Cook Road. It On behalf of GIL, this is one of the high honors in my life. Over the past several years as we would visit together over coffee, Mr. Hall and I would often discuss our faith in God. As he aged and was dealing with more challenging health concerns, he seemed to be more and more drawn to conversations about God. Knowing that he was approaching 100, an age that most people do not even get near these days, I would ask him if he was ready when his time comes. Over the past year or so he assured me that he was in fact and in faith ready, letting me know during our very last meeting that he received Jesus Christ “into his heart” – Mr. Hall wanted me to know that he made that personal commitment to Christ and he was prepared for eternity. I have no question that this man was ready.
One more thing I would like to share. Mr. Hall’s love and devotion toward his daughter Laura who has significant disabilities and lives in a group home was extraordinary. At nearly 100 years old, while living with assistance himself, with serious diabetes, and major respiratory issues, this gentle, good spirited, God loving man, looked for more opportunities to spend time with his Laura. She was his little girl and he really could care less that she had disabilities; except that he always wished he could communicate better with her. Many of us have witnessed absent fathers, men who have abandoned their families for their own self-interests. Not so with this man. He stayed the course. Mr. Ralph Hall was truly special, he communicated with the language of a genuine father, loving his family until the very end, he certainly finished well in this life. Thanks Mr. Hall – well done!