133 Mason St., Onalaska, WI • Call (608) 788-2188


Ralph Wilcox

March 8, 2019 | 10 comments

Ralph William Wilcox, of Onalaska, Wisconsin, passed away peacefully on Thursday, March 7th, 2019, just shy of his 93rd birthday.


He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Lucille (Koehl); five children, David (Carol) Wilcox, Linda (Thomas) Arlt, Richard “RJ” (Sandi) Wilcox, Patricia (Robert) Krarup, and Nancy (Corey) Ramquist; nine grandchildren, Michael (Julia) Wilcox, Rebecca (Daniel) Davenport, Nicholas (Mary) Arlt, Russell (Julie) Wilcox, Allison (Jason) Suchon, Lee (Katie) Krarup, Lane Krarup and Angel Perez, Roxanne (Luke) Dowske, and Jacqueline Ramquist; and eight great-grandchildren, Andrew, Jordan, Jaden, Jack, Victoria, Samantha, Zoey, and Jewel.


Ralph was born in Janesville, Wisconsin, on March 23, 1926 to William and Cordelia (Boucher) Wilcox. He signed up for the U.S. Navy’s Naval Aviation Cadet V-5 program, following his graduation from Janesville High School in 1944. He went into naval training at West Michigan College, followed by two months at Glenview Naval Air Station, and then preflight school at the State University of Iowa. After the end of the War, Ralph was honorably discharged from the Navy.

From there, he used the GI Bill to enroll in an Economics program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. That is where he met and fell in love with Lucille. He left the University after one year, when Lucille graduated in 1947, in order to get married. The couple wed on September 6, 1947, and settled in Janesville. In addition to their five children, they also welcomed Marilyn (Koehl) Thompson into their home.

Ralph drove a fuel truck for Standard Oil Company, and then in 1957, became an insurance agent for Metropolitan Life in Monroe, Wisconsin. He earned his CLU designation through the American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Ralph retired from MetLife in 1982, after relocating to La Crosse, Wisconsin, and serving as a district manager. He worked part-time for the Insurance Center in Onalaska, Wisconsin, as a consultant and a computer technician, until re-retiring in 2004.

Ralph grew up surrounded by music, learning to play the clarinet and saxophone by ear, and practicing songs with his mother and siblings, all musicians. His passion for music carried throughout his life, as he performed for many years with Al Townsend’s Wonderful World of Jazz Band, the Mississippi Mudcats, and other local jazz groups, and was a member of the American Federation of Musicians. With the Wonderful World band, he represented the state of Wisconsin at the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans, and also played the Stardust in Las Vegas for several years. He and Lucille would travel to jazz festivals together, where he would play clarinet and sax. Ralph occasionally sang lead vocals, and often got requests from his grandchildren and fans to sing their favorite “Ain’t Gonna Give You None of My Jelly Roll” song.

He would never admit it, but Ralph was known for his humor. He was quick with puns and could deliver one-liners with a straight face but with a twinkle in his eye. His relatives and friends were lucky enough to earn humorous nicknames that Ralph thought up and made everyone chuckle. In school, his classmates called him “Harpo,” a nickname for Harlow Wilcox, the announcer from the comedic radio show Fibber McGee and Molly. Later, he enjoyed entertaining his children and grandchildren, who will never be able to eat pancakes or dinner rolls without recalling how Ralph would stomp his foot when putting them on his plate. His lifelong dislike for flies meant you would never catch him eating a meal outside, even eating indoors while his children ate the Father’s Day picnic they made for him outside.

Ralph was always interested in airplanes and cars. He enjoyed assembling model airplanes as a child, and took flying lessons after leaving the Navy. His first car was a modified 1931 Model A Ford that had 12-inch airplane wheels and an inverted rowboat for a body. Two of his favorite vehicles were the 1935 Terraplane that he and Lucille took on their honeymoon and their 1937 two-seater Ford Coupe that his children called the “Putt Putt.” Ralph also proudly displayed a photo in his office of the Jaguar that was restored by his son, RJ.

He and Lucille enjoyed traveling together, and for many years would spend their winters in Lake Havasu, Arizona. Penny, a very special dog, held a special place in Ralph’s heart. Ralph was an avid golf fan and always supported the Western Michigan and UW-Madison sports teams. A gifted table tennis player, he often won matches against his sons, sons-in-law and grandchildren on the ping-pong table he had in his basement. He was also known to actively defend his championship title in Wii Bowling at Eagle Crest North in Onalaska, where Ralph and Lucille have lived since 2011. He was a member of the American Legion and a Fourth Degree Knight with the Knights of Columbus.

Ralph was preceded in death by his parents, brother Roy, and sisters Mildred Wilkins and Grace Broderick, and Marilyn Thompson.

A visitation for Ralph will be held at 9:30am on Tuesday, March 19th, at St. Patrick’s Parish in Onalaska, followed by a funeral service at 11:00am. In lieu of flowers, Ralph’s family asks that donations be made to St. Patrick’s Parish or the Alzheimer’s Association.

The family would like to thank the Memory Care Unit at Eagle Crest North for all the compassionate and loving care during Ralph’s last year.



  1. Dawn and Mike Mueller

    Dear Aunt Lucille and all, My heart is full after reading the beautiful story of Uncle Ralph that you shared. Many memories made me smile. Mike and I are sure sorry and pray for Uncle Ralph and each of you. Love, Mike and Dawn

  2. Nancy

    I am the luckiest daughter to have been gifted and blessed with such a wonderful father. I always knew he was a special man and I thank God every day for giving him to our family. Love you dad!

  3. Gerald "Jerry" Sheahan

    Louise and I, Jerry Sheahan will miss the smiling face of Ralph. I always enjoyed his witty jokes and his sense of humor. His music was so inspiring and he was so talented. The last music I heard him play was at a place in La Crosse where he played with the band. It may have been a restaurant or bar? He had several instruments he played there that night.
    I also remember the 41 Dodge that I got from him as my first car. The flies were not his thing, even at the farm reunions, old times playing horseshoes at some of our family activities at the farm and all, never saw him eating outside. Such a loving and caring Uncle and wonderful Christian Man, giving my sister Marilyn a home after our Mother died in 1950. God Bless him, he is in his Heavenly Home and we will join hime and enjoy him again some day. love, Jerry

  4. Angie Risseeuw

    Oh Nancy I am so sorry for your loss of your dad….he was a great man…funny jokes and great musician…tell your family…my sympathies to you all…hugs to you my friend…cherish those great memories.

  5. Mary Bitzer

    Dear Aunt Lucille and all of my
    Wilcox cousins,

    Uncle Ralph was a very special man, made even more memorable by your lovely tribute to him. Although we Kistner kids didn’t see him as often as we would have liked, his love of life and music, his sense of humor and care for all of you was profoundly evident.

    May the Lord bring you solace during this time as you remember his wonderful life.

    With warmest regards,

    Mary and John Bitzer and family

  6. Bill Hunter

    Ralph, I will always remember you as a Gentleman First Class.
    when we visited many years ago, your wit and humor, always had me leaving with a smile on my face. Bless you and yours.

  7. Susie Sullivan VanGalder

    Our sympathy goes out to all of you with the loss of this great man whom we remember so well from our childhood years. Our parents, Vince and Jo Sullivan spent many wonderful years socializing with your parents and we were always brought along to enjoy the company of the entire Wilcox family. Fun times. We too remember Penny…..retrieving those wet balls over and over again and pushing them onto our laps. What fun times we all had waaaaay back then. Memories….they are a wonderful thing. Hang onto all of your very special ones of your father!!! We are thinking of you and wishing you love and strength.

    Jeri Sullivan Torpy
    Susie Sullivan VanGalder

    • Patty Krarup

      Susie and Jeri. Thanks for your kind thoughts. It’s good to remember the Janesville years. Also such a coincidence that Bob and I lived across from Jeri on Ontario Dr in our first house. Patty Krarup

  8. Dave Utterback

    I’m so sorry to hear Ralph’s passing! I’m sorry that I’m out of town all this week and will be unable to attend his visitation. Ralph was a great guy and I have many, many fond memories of our times together on the LaX Queen playing with Al. I’m so glad you mentioned “Jelly Roll” in Ralph’s memorial! I had all but forgotten that song but I can now hear Ralph belting out those words with the rest of us chiming in in the background to Ralph’s cue. I’m so fortunate to have numbered him among my friends. Deepest sympathies, Dave Utterback

  9. William Wilcox

    Ralph was my “Uncle Ralph” for 77 years I was 5 years old when Ralph and Lucille married and I was at their wedding and then their reception at Lucille’s parents farm. I was of course, with my family, my Dad, Roy (Ralphs brother), and my mother and sister. We lived across the street from Ralph and Lucille in Janesville Wisconsin. I remember Ralph playing Santa Claus for my sister Judy and I as well as the other kids in the neighborhood. I used to play ball with Penny, Ralphs favorite dog. You never saw Penny without a ball in her mouth. I would watch as Ralph flew some of his model airplanes on the ground of Washington elementary school, which was just across the street from our houses.. I remember hearing him practice playing the clarinet and saxophone. We moved out West in 1950 and it wasn’t until I was married in 1963 that I and my wife Donna and our one and four year old sons visited them in LaCrosse. We were also fortunate enough to be able to attend their 50th anniversary party and see all of the cousins.
    Ralph was a person who always was quick with a smile and a pun. He was deeply loved by all of his children and, of course Lucille. His quick wit and sense of humor will be missed by many.
    Bill and Donna Wilcox

Let's Celebrate Life Together

Call or send a message using the buttons below... Call (608) 788-2188Send a Message