Ralph Theodore Anderson was born in Helena, Montana, on March 27, 1929, to Carl Anderson and Esther Johnson Anderson. Ralph attended St. Helena School Kindergarten, Central School and graduated from Helena High School with the famous Class of 1947. While in high school, Ralph was Student Body President, Editor of Helena High School Vigilante, played sports and said he was not good enough to start but not bad enough to be cut. His most memorable athletic moment in high school was while running the Mile in a Great Falls Track Meet when he was so far behind two little kids were throwing rocks at him. Ralph also pitched for the Helena American Legion team.
After graduating from Helena High School, Ralph attended Carroll College in Helena for his freshman year and was always proud to have been on the honor roll at Carroll that first year. He then transferred to the University of Montana in Missoula, joined the Sigma Chi Fraternity and graduated from the University. Ralph was honorably discharged from the United States Navy and was called to the United States Marine Corps, where he served as Drill Sargent in Parris Island, South Carolina, and was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 1952. Ralph was very proud to be a Marine, and was a member of the Marine Corps League for his lifetime.
Ralph married Valerie Linderman, his high school sweetheart, at St. John’s Lutheran Church on December 28, 1950. During their 20 year marriage, they had five children, Dugan, Douglas, JuDee, David and JoDee. In 1965, Ralph’s family voted unanimously to sell their “mansion” on Ewing Street. They moved to the country in Montana City. This decision enabled Ralph to live an active life with his children, including Yamaha motorcycles, snowmobiles, a swimming pool, putting greens, horses, and two family St. Bernards, Heidi and Horst. Although the marriage ended in divorce, Ralph honored his children with a fulfilling and memorable childhood.
When Ralph returned from the service, he joined his father, Carl, in the automobile business at Capital Ford. At that time the dealership was located on Fuller Avenue, along with the other automobile dealers. Ralph had certainly found his niche with his father and the auto business. He was an amazingly successful salesman and eventually became the owner and operator of Capital Ford. Ralph moved Capital Ford from Fuller Avenue to Prospect Avenue where it flourished and grew. Ralph was the ultimate salesman and while operating Capital Ford, acquired Lincoln, Mercury, Toyota, Mazda and Nissan. He served on the Ford Motor Company National Dealer Council, Montana Auto Dealers, received the Time Quality Award for the auto industry and Northwood Institute Dealer Education Award and received Toyota Triple Crown Award. Over the years he was winner of numerous Ford and Toyota sales’ contests and traveled extensively throughout the world.
Ralph married Jo Ann Lester on February 26, 1971 and she brought with her to Helena her two daughters, Kathleen and Maribeth Stevens, and Ralph became a big part of her family from Beautiful Butte America. Jo Ann had come to Helena to buy a car from him and he often told the story that Jo Ann said, “If I buy the car, Ralph, will you marry me?” She did, they did, and the rest is history. They shared over 40 years of marriage. Jo Ann accompanied Ralph during his worldwide travels to Greece, Egypt, The Holy Land, London, Ireland, China, Russia, Japan, Hawaii, Germany, Austria, Mexico, Hong Kong, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden and last, but not least, many times to Las Vegas and Beautiful Butte America.
Ralph was a lifetime member of St. John’s Lutheran Church and served on the church council for several years and on St. John’s Evangelism Committee and was Boy Scout Master at St. John’s.
Ralph loved Helena and supported her in a thousand ways over the years. He also had a deep commitment to Carroll College. Ralph envisioned and raised funds to complete “Founders Corner” for Carroll. Ralph had a heart as big as Helena and then some and was involved in many fund raisers for needy people and organizations over the years. He was instrumental in Queen City Estates, a home for the mobility impaired and traumatic brain injured adults, did numerous fund-raisers for Carroll College, Habitat for Humanity, Helena Symphony, Military Museum, Florence Crittenden Home, some in conjunction with the sale of artist prints, originals of which were created by his lifelong friend, Robert F. Morgan, renowned Helena artist. Ralph’s weekly schedule for years included visiting the elderly, shut-ins and those in the hospital with flowers appropriate for the holiday, i.e. poinsettias for Christmas and lilies for Easter.
Ralph was very active in numerous Helena organizations, e.g. Boy Scouts, DeMolay, Rotary Club of Helena, and received Rotary Foundation Award of Rotary International and Rotary Paul Harris Fellow Award in 1984, member of YMCA Board of Trustees, member of Intermountain Deaconess Home for Children for 20 years. Ralph founded Home Town Helena Pride, which was befitting him for sure. He was a member of Helena Chamber of Commerce, President of Helena Ambassadors for two decades and truly being an Ambassador and promoting Helena was one of his greatest joys, He also served on the Westmont Advisory and Development Committees, co-chaired Community Chest Fund, served on the National Republican Congressional Committee 1987 and received Republican of the Year Award, Torch Bearer in the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay in Salt Lake City, served on the Board of Directors and was co-organizer of Crime stoppers, Carroll College Presidents Council, Dave Wallace Thursday Club, A real highlight of Ralph’s life was Monday morning coffee with the Class of 1947.
Ralph’s office is covered with awards and recognitions from every imaginable source and seven times Helena mayors proclaimed “Ralph Anderson Day” in the City of Helena, which, by the way, would make a “Ralph Anderson Week”!
Ralph will be welcomed to heaven by his mother and father and son, Douglas, and is survived by his wife, Jo Ann, sisters, Edean Ihlanfeldt and Ruth Hanson; children Dugan (Terri) Anderson, JuDee Anderson, David (Chrys) Anderson, JoDee Anderson, Kathleen (Keith) Broussard, and Maribeth Stevens; grandchildren, Patience (Dave) Weigle, Ebony Borders, Lane Anderson, D. J. and Brooke Anderson, Maloree and Nolan McCormick, Kory Broussard and grand dog, Mazie Mae Stevens; great grandchildren, Saige and Nichole Stanger, Grayson and Karsyn Weigle, Jade and Keiran Anderson; and great, great-grandchild, Lexi Stanger; brothers-in-law Thomas (Susan) Lester and Jim (Wilene) Lester, sisters-in-law, Sister Lynn Lester, BVM, Kim (David) Scott, and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
The family invites you to join them beginning at 5:00 p.m. Tuesday evening January 21, 2014with a sharing time with family and friends to begin at 6:00 p.m. at the Anderson Stevenson Wilke Funeral Home Chapel, 3750 N. Montana Avenue. On Wednesday morning the family will begin receiving friends at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 1100 Helena Avenue with funeral services at 10:30 a.m. A reception celebrating Ralph’s life will be held at Jorgenson’s Restaurant from noon to 2:00 p.m. immediately following the funeral service. Interment with military honors will be at 3:00 p.m. at the Montana State Veterans Cemetery at Ft. Harrison. Memorials in Ralph’s name are suggested to Carroll College, 1601 Benton Avenue Helena, MT 59601, St. John’s Lutheran Church 1100 Helena Avenue Helena, Montana 59601, Westmont 2708 Bozeman Avenue Helena, Montana 59601 or an organization of the donor’s choice. To offer the family a condolence or to share a memory of Ralph please visit below.