Ralph Hagen 1931-2018
Ralph’s TollyCraft returning from a Squadron CruiseMany of you will remember Ralph who served the Squadron for years as treasurer, training officer, commander, and past commander. He, with several others, constructed Lil’ Gabe - a hit with all wherever she appears. Ralph died peacefully surrounded by his family on Monday night, June 25.
Celebration of his life was held in a crowded Rollo Center August 5. Three of his Squadron Associates, Bob Weenk, Bob Derksen and Don Butt were in attendance and spoke - their comments are shown below, and our Educational Officer Bert terHart’s tribute was read. Squadron member and friend Bos Malcolm and Past District commander and now National Educational Officer, Peter Bolton also spoke about Ralph.
He is missed, and we are all the richer for having been associated with him.
BOB DERKSEN: We all have our own way of remembering. In my case although I knew Ralph since 2005 from our times on the Bridge, I went to our Gabriola Island Squadron web site to refresh my memories of this remarkable man. The web site has a huge number of documents and photos going back to the Squadron’s founding in 1996 and from the time he joined the Squadron in 1998 Ralph appears many times.
The photos tell a story of dedication and involvement. Ralph was active in student cruises, he and Helen participated in the Squadron’s social cruises, and the many on-land social events, spanning two decades. The photos also show Ralph doing presentations at our social gatherings, such as the boating challenges of the Hagens’ trips to the Broughtons and his history of the Union Steamship Company.
The written documents on the web site tell their own story about Ralph too. They show that for over 17 years Ralph was on the Bridge. He first joined the Squadron Executive in 1998 as Administration Officer. In 2005 Ralph became, in my opinion, the most important person in the Squadron, the Squadron Training Officer. It was his job to recruit and guide a team of volunteer instructors and taking on part of the instructional task himself. Ralph held that position for eight years, a Squadron record. This is remarkable, because it is a difficult role; it is a job that requires talent and dedication and Ralph had both in spades with his clear, methodical way of explaining boating matters, his patience with his students and their questions, his fascinating, memorable anecdotes about his experiences on the water and his dry sense of humour. The Squadron awarded Ralph its Windchime Award for outstanding contributions to training four times in those years and that is another record that still stands.
Above all the web site’s records show, Ralph received recognition because of the responses that he got from his students. Often through word of mouth, they signed up for the Squadron’s courses in good numbers for such a small community, liked his courses and responded by doing remarkably well on the CPS exams. During his years as Training Officer our little Squadron obtained many awards from Vancouver Island North District, nine to be precise, for highest average marks and the best overall results in the District in training, and an Excellence in Youth Training Award. These achievements was larger than that of any other of the District’s ten squadrons except for Campbell River. In 2011 Ralph’s was presented with the Vancouver Island North District’s CPS Volunteer of the Year Award.
Two years later Ralph became Squadron Commander. The web site’s photos and documents between 2013 and 2015 show a dedicated commander leading the Squadron and representing the organization in the community. In my humble opinion there is no greater praise for a leader than to say that they left an organization in better shape than they found it. Like so many of our other commanders, Ralph did just that.
As Past Commander on the Bridge these last three years Ralph was still an inspiration to those Squadron volunteers who had witnessed his years in bringing the message and knowledge of recreational boater safety to our island. As a community and a volunteer teaching organization, we owe Ralph our deepest gratitude.
Squadron member since 2005
DON BUTT: We go back to early days of Gabriola Squadron. He was a guy who set a high standard for himself and expected it of others.
But he was not perfect – in spite of a lifetime experience on the water, and passionate advocate of safe boating, he made no secret of his misfortune when he tattooed Danger Reef with the bright paint of Owekino’s hull. He wasn’t about to let the rumour mill take over without exposing the truth. But then positive spin – he didn’t let you forget that Coast Guard proffered rich compliments on him because of his exemplary mayday. Always the silver lining.
He thought out of the box...
* He conceived the idea of Lil’ Gabe, designed it, and with help of Squadron members, built her in the garage. The Squadron won a prestigious National award because of it. But I’m sure Helen wasn’t pleased as the sawdust drifted onto her immaculately vacuumed floors.
* It was something else to see those school kids he instructed the fine art of navigation as they walked around on the proper side of his homemade buoys in the school gym, studiously avoiding those menacing blobs of “rocks” and the shoreline. The Squadron won a prestigious National Power and Sail Squadrons award for this
* He volunteered for positions without being asked, when he saw the need, both at Squadron and District level
* He knew how to thank his training crew. That gourmet Norwegian fair at Christmas time was something memorable. Where was Ralph? Smiling contently in a comfortable chair with a scary looking Dobermann lovingly curled up like a pussy cat poured like a drink of water on his lap
* That he is so highly thought of is evident today, with so many of his associates and friends here to honour his memory.
And finally, referring to Bob Weenk’s opening remarks with poetry, I’ll close the brackets with a quote from William Wordsworth’s poem, To a Skylark that so describes the character of Ralph:
Type of the wise who soar, but never roam;
True to the kindred pints of Heaven and Home!
So thank you Ralph, for everything you are and did for us. We are the better for having known you."
Squadron member since 1996
BOB WEENK: Whenever I went to visit Ralph, in sickness or in health, he was, invariably, in “the chair”. “The chair” was well worn, kinda like Ralph, old, and a little wrinkly, but still, like Ralph, obviously useful.
The chair sat, and still sits, in the corner of a sunroom, overlooking Duke Point and Nanaimo harbour, the perfect place from which to keep an eye on the traffic up and down Northumberland Strait and in and out of the port. The windows face more or less westerly, but the chair, the chair faces north; up the strait, overlooking Snake and Descanso Bay. In the distance, Lasqueti and Texada dominate the skyline and, almost lost in the mist, the mountains of the mainland stretch north, their snowcaps disappearing in the haze like the fragments of a half remembered dream.
I have thought that the siting of the chair was appropriate because, though Ralph was born and educated on the lower mainland(he showed me where on one of our jaunts fetching and carrying for the Rollo Centre)and spent most of his working life in Prince George; and upon retirement, or at least partial retirement he moved to this lovely chunk of Sandstone; it was the central coast that called to him.
Every summer, since I have known him, the coast beckoned; first on his beloved Owikeno, and later in a trailer, parked on the water North of Campbell River, sitting, reading, dog walking and simply being there, on the water.
More than once, as we talked of past and future coastal issues, of ferries, salmon, bridges and population dynamics, Ralph would remark on his history with the central coast, on the fish boats of his youth and his belief that he had salt water in his veins.
Either while in “the chair; on the way to a power squadron class or meeting; or a bridge game; or heading down to Victoria for one reason or another, the distant mountains to the north were a constant presence in his mind’s eye and never far from the surface of our conversations. You are all here because you knew Ralph, so I won’t spend a great deal of time talking about his work or family history. Besides, as is always the case, the Ralph Hagen that you knew and the one I knew are each a little different. The points of commonality will be things like his pragmatism, his absolute honesty, his Norwegian stubbornness and his devotion to Helen and the family.
Our friendship must at first glance have seemed a little surprising (me a committed lefty, a man of words (English teacher) with a life dedicated to athletics; and a flatlander. Ralph, pretty apolitical,(but no socialist); a man of practicality and numbers, with little background in sports due to a bout of TB in his youth. And almost a generational difference in ages. But friends we were. From our time in the power squadron together in various roles, to designing and building the Rollo storage, to planning and designing Little Gabe and, debating the wisdom of renovating the building we’re in. We agreed and disagreed, bargained and compromised, and things got or are getting done.
Finally, it seems to me fitting that we should hold this gathering here, in the Rollo Centre, as Ralph for the last few years has been heavily invested in seeing that the Rollo Centre is a financially stable, thriving entity for many years into the future. All of those who served on this board with him are aware of his thoughtful, but unvarnished contributions to the discussion and his frank assessments of future planned directions, all of which were instrumental in forging the vision that is being realized before our eyes.
Ralph had much reason to be proud of his substantial influence on the organizations he chose to support. He was not always compliant or compromising, but he always acted for the greater good as he perceived it.
He was in the time I knew him, the man who plants the sapling, knowing he will not be around to sit in the shade of the mature tree, But he plants anyway.
So now we say farewell; friend, mentor, devil’s advocate and ally; and we pay tribute to all he has done and been.
Being a man of words let me suggest you look up a copy of Masefield’s “Sea Fever” or the last few lines of Tennyson’s “Ulysses”. They speak of my friend better than I ever could.