Ralph Edward Shinn
Ralph Edward Shinn went home for good on Jan. 21, 2008.
He was born in 1920 in Lockhart, where he was raised with an older brother and three older sisters, and loving parents. Every summer they camped for two weeks in Fentress on the Guadalupe River Bank, roller skating, swimming, and dancing, along with many dozens of other families.
Horse-drawn transportation w
as still common. His dad Eugene bought him a horse when he was still too small to climb into the saddle. Ralph mounted the horse with his dad’s help in Mendoza, several miles north of Lockhart. Dad continued north and Ralph rode home, but had to dismount for nature. Unable to remount, he led the horse home. And as he entered Lockhart with his new horse in hand, some loose mules were leaving town. Seeing Ralph, the mules turned around and walked back; right into the public corral from which they had escaped. Ralph was hero for the day, plus proud owner of his first horse!
The whole family brought music to the neighborhood, singing on their front porch with piano and other accompaniment.
Ralph’s childhood nickname was Sloppy Shinn. He lived it down a thousand times over, ever neat, sometimes meticulous in his own way.
Immediately after Ralph graduated Lockhart High School in 1937, his widowed mother Mattie Blundell Shinn moved the family to Austin so he could attend U.T. Ralph remarked he had had no idea their family was poor until they moved to Austin. The family joined University United Methodist Church immediately, and became very active. Everyone worked, and Ralph attended U.T. But WWII interrupted.
In the Air Force, Ralph trained in the most advanced electronics of the day, and worked that equipment from inside the bomb bay of a brand new B-24 with the 7th Bomber Group. They flew with bombing missions to locate enemy radar stations. Ralph earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Oak Leaf Clusters, and many ribbons. When they were not flying, Ralph played tennis and cards and the organ for their Church services. The crew lost track of each other until 1989 at a B-24 Reunion in Dallas. Three of them found each other and were later able to locate the rest. Reunions after that were wonderful events for Ralph and the others.
The Air Force called him back to serve in Korea. Between the wars, Ralph graduated from U.T. Business School. His career was in the title insurance business, most notably with Gracy Title Co. His secretary said that on the day Ralph retired as manager, every woman in the office wept.
Ralph was an active Longhorn fan, season ticket holder, taking alumni chartered bus trips, attending conferences with the coaches. He made dear friends with regular fans in neighboring seats at baseball and football games, season after season. Ralph was in strong demand to play in Contact Bridge Tournaments far and wide.
From 1937 until the late 1990s, Ralph attended the University United Methodist Church. He was one of the famous Hickman’s Men Sunday school group, and led their joyous singing for many years. He served as usher longer than anyone in the church’s history. Service to God was a main stay of Ralph’s life, both in and outside church. Ralph was honored with the “Fishers of Men” award in 1996.
Ralph made hundreds of good friends everywhere he went in life: in church, real estate and title work, card games, cheering for the Longhorns. Ralph was a true gentleman, friendly, honorable, gentle with humor, loving, and appreciated by all who knew him. He quietly inspired many of us toward a better life for ourselves. He was a hero, although he was far too modest to admit it.
Ralph is survived by his sister, Jeanne Shinn Clark, plus adoring nephews and nieces.
Memorial services are scheduled at the University United Methodist Church sanctuary, on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008, at 2 p.m.