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Ralph Werntgen passed away on Wednesday, January 16, 2013, at Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin, Vermont. Ralph was born on September 23, 1943, in the Bronx. His parents Elsa Kleinheinz and Herman Werntgen were immigrants from Germany. He was the youngest in his family and had an older brother Will and sister Trudy. The family of five lived humbly in a three-room apartment in the Bronx. His was a loving family. They took frequent outings to fish, ice skate and picnic in many of the beautiful city parks. As a young boy, Ralph enjoyed riding his bike through the Bronx Botanical Gardens, (which was against the law) and outracing the park police.
His mother insisted he get swimming lessons and he excelled, earning many awards in high school and setting records as an All American Swimmer. He graduated from Evander Childs High School. Ralph was awarded a full athletic scholarship to Long Island University. He later earned a master’s degree from New York University. He was an ocean lifeguard on Rockaway Beach in New York City during his college years.
After graduation, Ralph taught physical education at Samuel Gompers High School, an all-boys vocational high school in the South Bronx. The years spent at this challenging school offered an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many young men. He loved coaching them in a variety of sports which gave him the opportunity to form relationships and instill values.
Later Ralph taught health and physical education at Queens College where he coached the swimming team. He enjoyed teaching swimming, sailing and scuba diving and took students on Survivor-like camping and sailing trips to the Virgin Islands and Florida to broaden their skills.
Ralph loved the ocean and the outdoors. He met his wife Susan while surfing at Ponquogue Beach in Hampton Bays. They raised three daughters Melissa, Kari and Allison. The family shared many happy times embracing the beauty of eastern Long Island. Happy days at ocean and bay beaches, fishing and sailing. He loved showing his daughters how to surf the waves even on red flag days (which indicated rough conditions).
Ralph went on to build a successful contracting business which he named after his daughters. He found great satisfaction in building new homes for clients. He was a mentor and friend to many of his subcontractors and he assisted many of them in navigating the path to home ownership for themselves.
Ralph enjoyed skiing with his family at Okemo. Skiing gave him the opportunity to enjoy “family time” and take a break from the demands of running multiple businesses.
Ralph had Parkinson’s disease for over 33 years being first diagnosed at age 36. He faced the diagnosis as a challenge but not a hindrance and brought everything he had to living life fully with what would later come to be a debilitating illness.
Ralph brought tremendous enthusiasm to his life. He was a man who focused on the positive, saw the best in those around him and was a lifelong coach and mentor to many. His “can do” outlook was contagious. He achieved much and adjusted to the setbacks life brought him without complaint or bitterness.
As his Parkinson’s disease advanced, he relocated to Vermont permanently to enjoy a simpler life in wonderful Moretown.
Ralph was preceded in death by his parents, Elsa and Herman, and his brother Will Werntgen of Glover, Vermont. He is survived by his spouse, Susan, of Moretown; his daughter Melissa Coviello (and her husband Marc) of Waterbury; daughter Kari Cruz (and her husband Baruk) of Atlanta, GA; daughter Allison Werntgen (and her husband Eben Goodman) of Jamaica Plain, MA; his sister Trudy Hahn of Atlanta, GA; sister-in-law Joyce Werntgen and her partner Peg Franzen of Montpelier; sister-in-law Barbara Delzio of Glover; his grandson Miles Coviello of Waterbury and numerous nieces and nephews.
A memorial service to celebrate his life was held at the Moretown Town Hall on Sunday, January 20.
Ralph’s family would like to acknowledge and thank service providers from Central Vermont Home Health, Mad River Valley Ambulance first responders, Deanne Farr community support, Barbara DeCarlo senior companion and numerous neighbors and friends whose kindness and generosity helped him to enjoy his life at home.
The family requests memorial donations be made to APDA Vermont Chapter Respite Fund and sent to: APDA Vermont Chapter, 1 South Prospect Street 454AR2, Burlington, VT 05401.