Ralph Anthony Swartz, 81, founding member of St. Olaf Catholic Church

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Ralph Anthony Swartz
Ralph Anthony Swartz

There is a day everyone hopes will never come, but they know that it will after a certain period of serious illness. Ralph Anthony Swartz died Saturday, April 8, 2017. He is survived by his wife, Mary McDonald Swartz, to whom he was a loving husband for 37 years and best friend for over 40 years.

Ralph was born to Frank H. and Eleanora Spencer Swartz July 5, 1935, in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on Martha’s Vineyard Island. He was the oldest of eight children followed by Frank Jr., Bob, Cynthia, James, Dick, Audrey and Emory. He was preceded in death by Frank Jr., James and Dick; and his daughter, Teresa (age 7).

He is survived by his children, Michael ‘Tony’ Swartz (Maritza), Sharon Swartz Filsinger (Steve) and Kimberly Swartz Turner (John). He also was grandfather to Keri Swartz, Michael and Matthew Finn, Josh and Elijah Filsinger and Teresa, Ashley and Jacob Turner; step-grandfather to Brandon Filsinger; and great-grandfather to Spencer Sarantopoulos and Camden Filsinger. His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were the lights of his life. He counted himself lucky to have a large and loving family as well as many friends and colleagues who were close to him throughout his career.

Ralph’s childhood was full of adventures, fun and work with his brothers and sisters on Martha’s Vineyard until he joined the U.S. Navy at the ripe old age of 17. He served two active duty years during the Korean Conflict, spending most of his enlistment in the Orlando, Fla., area. He was so proud of his service in the U.S. Navy.

Following an honorable discharge from service to his country, he and his first wife, Connie, returned briefly to Cape Cod, but the cold winters were no longer his choice. Eager to return to Florida, Ralph began a career in the newspaper and commercial printing industry that became his profession of choice through his last days.

Moving from Lakeland, Fla., to Beaumont, Texas, where he met his second wife, Mary, then to Clarksburg, W.Va., Danville, Va., and, finally, to his beloved home of 34 years, Williamsburg, Va. He was tremendously proud join partners Chris and Brenda Jones as co-owner of the commercial printing firm, Printwell Inc., which has flourished for 25 years in Williamsburg.

Ralph was passionate about golf, fishing and especially telling convoluted and often very funny jokes and stories, frequently off-color, and many times cracking himself up. His enjoyment of his own jokes only enhanced the reactions of those he was entertaining. He loved recounting adventures of his childhood and early youth on the island, editing some of his and his brothers’ worst behavior for his audience. Digging for clams, selling wildflowers to make money for the movies, popcorn and a soda, going to the dump to find treasures that could be made into a wagon, wheelbarrow or another tool were all part of Ralph’s Depression-era upbringing.

There was no one he loved, admired and revered more than his mother, Eleanora. She left him with a tremendous work ethic, love of family and friends, generosity of care for others who were less fortunate than he, and deep and abiding faith and trust in God.

Ralph loved his faith and shared his passion with the faith family of St. Olaf Catholic Church in Williamsburg. As one of the founding members of the parish, he took great pride in the growth of this faith community and the many loving friends he found there. His ministries, including minister of hospitality (usher), extraordinary minister of the Eucharist and Sacristan, were important and fulfilling to him in many ways.

His greatest ministry was to engage and interact with those he knew and those he did not know, extending a genuine welcome to all. For Ralph, there were no strangers, only friends he had yet to meet.

He proudly served as a member of the board of the Angels of Mercy Medical Clinic, a free healthcare provider to uninsured patients in the greater Williamsburg area, exemplary of his generosity, compassion, and commitment to service to those in need. He was also a longtime member of the Knights of Columbus.

A celebration of Ralph’s life will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 17, at Kiskiack Golf Course, 8104 Club Drive, Williamsburg. Visitation with the family will begin at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 18, at St. Olaf Catholic Church, 104 Norge Lane, Williamsburg. Mass of Resurrection will immediately follow at 7 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the St. Olaf Catholic Church Building Fund or Angels of Mercy Medical Clinic.

Rest in peace good and faithful servant. Many love you and will miss you always.