Ralf Eric Gilbert of Manheim (formally of Yardley and Morrisville), passed away November 10, after a peaceful day surrounded by family he loved dearly. Ralf had many great accomplishments during his 87 years, but his family was always his primary focus.
The son of Claude and Irella (Bearns) Gilbert, Ralf was born January 1, 1933, raised on their truck farm in East Rockhill Township, and graduated from Quakertown high school in 1951. He was the first of his family to attend college, graduating from Gettysburg College in 1955, majoring in political science and philosophy and was in the Air Force ROTC. After graduation he began work on his law degree at Dickinson School of Law.
His life altering accomplishment in college was meeting his life-long partner, Loretta Greth. They met at Gettysburg College and were married by Loretta’s father, The Reverend Dr. Morris Greth, in 1955. It was the start of a wonderful partnership bound in love for 65 years.
After a year of law school Ralf was called to serve his country. He served four years in the US Air Force, piloting a variety of large troop transport aircraft, retiring as a First Lieutenant. He loved flying, but decided to return to Dickinson Law School and graduated in 1962 with his Doctor at Law degree. While studying law and raising a family he continued to fly medical evacuation planes for the PA National Guard.
He went on to have a distinguished career as an attorney for 50 years. Ralf was an Assistant District Attorney for Bucks County, and President of the Bucks County Bar Association. He established his own legal practice, specializing in family law and municipal law. One of his proudest achievements was being instrumental in starting and for many years serving on the Board of Directors for what is now known as the Legal Aid Society of South Eastern Pennsylvania. A cause that Ralf long championed through pro-bono work in his private practice.
He was licensed to practice before the US Supreme Court, US Court of Appeals, US District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Pennsylvania Superior Court, and the Courts of Common Pleas of Bucks, Montgomery, Philadelphia and Delaware Counties.
Ralf was an avid hunter, fisherman and true lover of nature. Going to deer camp with the men of the family was a special time of year for Ralf. He and Loretta travelled the Eastern US on fishing vacations for many years and enjoyed spending time on their boat “Funtastic” in Belmar, NJ. They took their boat on several cruises up and down the eastern seaboard. Fishing with Ralf on his boat was a rite of passage, not only for his daughters, but friends, spouses, business associates and most of all his grandchildren. Ralf took fishing seriously, and he was very good at it.
After retirement, Ralf and Loretta enjoyed travelling to see the world. Ralf’s favorite was Italy.
Ralf’s other life-long passion was family gatherings highlighted with good food. Every year he hosted a Christmas party for his family where he would recap the family’s accomplishments, with emphasis on each of his grandchildren. No matter how many people attended he always found time to chat with each guest, one-on-one. One grandson summed up his memories saying, “When he was talking to you, you felt like the most important person in the room at that moment.”
For Ralf, sharing advice, boosting one’s confidence, and providing motivation was not limited to his family. He believed in the words of Abraham Lincoln “A lawyer's time and advice are his stock and trade,” and he often gave freely of his time in hopes of helping someone else. His lesson to his family was simple, “Treat everyone fairly, equally and with respect. You never know when you are going to change someone’s life with a simple act of kindness.”
He was a charter member of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Morrisville, PA, and was a member of the Church Council. For many years he taught bible study to young children, and enjoyed working in St. John’s flower gardens.
He will be remembered as a wonderful husband, father and family leader. He was not only a gentleman, but a truly sweet man, who cared about everyone he met, loved his family without question, and gave of himself freely.
He is survived by his loving wife Loretta and their three daughters: Linda Gilbert (Ray Wolf), Sharon DiPietro (Karl), and Diane Smith (Riley). Grandchildren: Casey, Karla, Riley and Eric. Step-grandchildren: Brenna and Ben. Four Great-grandchildren: AJ, Axel, Quinn and Ryan. Sisters: Irene Smith and Susan Ellis, and his brother, John Gilbert.
Services are private at this time and will be livestreamed at 1:00 PM on Saturday, November 21, 2020 here: www.facebook.com/thedonohuefuneralhome/. A public memorial service will be held in the Spring.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Legal Aid Society of SEPA in Ralf’s name at: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/LASP.
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Legal Aid Society of SEPA