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Ralph Farnes Clarke was born January 22, 1929 in the small farming community of Driggs, Idaho, located at the base of the Grand Teton mountain range. His parents Amacy and Pearl Clarke had six children - Marguerite, William, John, Ralph, Kenneth, and Carlyle. Ralph and his siblings loved to hike in the Tetons to the Table Rock lookout.
One of his favorite boyhood memories was the one room log cabin located in his backyard that he turned into his small shop. Ralph was a very creative young boy and loved to tinker around and invent things. One of his favorite stories to tell was about a fire alarm he invented. He relates this story in his biography, “I was experimenting with designing a fire alarm. I did this by making a switch that would turn on if there was a fire that melted the wax on the switch. This would activate the doorbell which would act as the fire alarm. I told my mother what I was doing but she did not pay much attention. About two a.m. that night, the doorbell began ringing. My Father jumped out of bed and went to the door and found no one there, but the doorbell kept ringing. My mother said she had never heard my father swear any time in his life, but he said, “dammit to hell, there is nobody here.” Mother said, “I think you had better wake up Ralph because he was tinkering around there today.” When my father woke me, and told me what was happening, I said, “Oh it worked!” It was designed so that when wax melted, that it would automatically ring the doorbell. The switch that I designed was put by the refrigerator. It was intended that if there was a fire, it would melt the wax. I did not anticipate that the heat from the refrigerator would be warm enough to melt the wax.”
At the age of 13 his father died of Leukemia. Shortly thereafter his mother moved the family to Salt Lake City where they bought a house on Bryan Ave. While in highschool, his mother asked him to construct a basement apartment to rent out for extra income. Little did he know that this would be the beginning of a career in the rental business.
Ralph was always tinkering and thinking of ways to make things better. As a teenage boy he walked into the Utah Electric Motor Company where he saw a great number of motors sitting around needing repair. He suggested to the owner that he should hire him since he could help him repair these motors. The owner, William Winegar, took him up on his proposal. Mr. Winegar ended up being like a second father to Ralph. He always talked very fondly about him.
While in highschool he joined the Naval Reserve and served during the Korean War. After leaving the military he attended BYU using the GI Bill to fund his education, majoring in Industrial Arts. His hope was to become a shop teacher.
After graduating from BYU he was called to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Kingdom of Tonga teaching shop classes at the Church school. This experience was one of the highlights of his life and he talked very fondly of this time for the rest of his life.
He served his two year mission and then returned as a paid teacher for a year. At that time he had a ski boat and water skis shipped to Tonga. He and a fellow teacher would go down to the bay and ski while the Tongan young people would jump up and down and cheer every time they fell.
Ralph was introduced to his future wife, Opal Atwood, at a singles dance, shortly after they both returned from their missions. Four months later they were married and moved into the house on Charlton Ave. They immediately started their family having one daughter and three sons – Janine, David, Keith and John.
Ralph first worked at the Utah State Prison as the chief electrician and then as the electrical trades teacher for the Utah Technical Colleges’ prison program. He had great satisfaction in knowing that many of the prisoners he taught found good jobs once released from prison.
Once the prison discontinued the trades program, he left the prison and focused on his many rental properties. During the economic downturn he was creative in coming up with ways to survive the economic crisis without losing any of his business holdings. Ralph attributed much of his business success to his paying tithing and often spoke of this to his family.
During his retirement years Ralph and Opal traveled extensively. He especially loved traveling through Israel and a Baltic Sea Cruise. Recently he took what he considered a trip of a lifetime with his family where he was able to share with them the great love and memories he had of the Islands and the Tongan people.
Ralph has a great love for his children and was proud of their accomplishments and the contributions they have made to their families and community. Each of his children married good partners and have given him 12 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. Little children have always had a special place in his heart. Over the years he especially loved making things in his shop with his grandchildren. They have fond memories of wooden boats they made with their grandpa. In the last few years he loved being entertained and led around by the finger by his great grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, April 20th, at 11 AM at the Valley View Ward Building, 2125 E. Evergreen Ave (3435 South), Millcreek, Utah; where friends and family can visit Friday evening 6-8 PM and Saturday morning 9:30-10:30 AM prior to the service.