||Ralph Ringelstetter receives the “Distinguished Graduate Award” from St. Aloysius School Principal Daniela Saldana. He is an alumnus of the Class of 1950. (Sue Barry photo)
SAUK CITY -- During the kickoff event for St. Aloysius School’s Catholic Schools Week at Divine Mercy Parish in Sauk City, Class of 1950 alumnus Ralph Ringelstetter was presented with the “Distinguished Graduate Award.”
He was honored for his many contributions of handmade woodworking and metal items to the school and church over the years.
Some recent projects Ralph has donated to the school are the wood and metal benches that line the front of the school building and a new school sign.
One of the most beautiful and sizable projects he did for the church was a Nativity stable to house the Holy Family life-size Nativity scene used in the church at Christmas time. The roof of the stable and the wood for the benches were transformed by Ralph from the wood of old pews taken out of the church a few years ago.
According to Divine Mercy Finance Manager Margaret Nelson, “Ralph is such a kind and humble man. He does so many things for the church and school and he finishes the projects so fast.”
He is always on board for helping with jobs that need to be done around the parish and when asked to do a specific project, he exceeds the requested project suggestions in both design and quality, she explained.
In an interview with Ralph, what rang out loud and clear was his love for his church and his family and the pride he takes in his quality workmanship and work ethic.
Needed something to do
He showed in a photo album many of the projects he’s done for the school and church. He explained that after his retirement (41 years) as a welder foreman for Kraemer and Sons (headquartered in Plain) in 2003, and then the passing of his wife Ruth in 2005, he needed something to do.
His “something to do” has been a blessing in so many ways to Divine Mercy Parish and to St. Aloysius School. At first, he started making repairs and did little odd jobs to make things work better, such as repairing lunch tables in the school gym and putting screen doors on the back of the lunch room kitchen to be able to have doors open for a breeze.
He also used wood from the old pews to make a custom handrail up to the school stage and he made an elegant wood and glass display case for the St. Teresa statue that is displayed at the back entrance of the church.
He made four huge metal racks to store the folding chairs in the school gym when they are not in use, and metal racks to hold the scaffolding in the church used to change light bulbs and for other high-ceiling jobs (now the high-ceiling jobs are contracted out).
Attention to detail
Ralph’s ingenuity in many other seemingly insignificant projects shows his attention to detail and pride in workmanship. For example, he noticed how hard it was for the organist to get the display board down so she could put the hymn numbers up before Mass. He designed a new wood board that was more accessible -- it could easily be lowered to put the numbers on -- and it is sturdier and more handsome than the old one.
Ralph is no stranger to hard work and he’s always willing to help others with errands or various projects. He said he went with another parishioner to pick up furniture for the newly remodeled teachers’ lounge last year only to find he had been given the wrong pick-up location.
He chuckled, saying it is always an adventure and it is fun and rewarding to help and get to know other parishioners better at the same time.
His earlier life
Ralph was born in Spring Green, but his family moved to Sauk Prairie when he was in fourth grade. He remembers the three-room school building where he first attended St. Aloysius School and many of the friendships he made while at the school were life-long bonds.
Forty-one years at the same company, Ralph has lots of good memories in his career. He traveled to many states and especially loved the quarry work he did in places such as Ohio, Kentucky, and other states on subcontracting jobs with Kraemer and Sons.
Love of motorcycles
Ralph also loves to ride motorcycles and had his first when he was 17 years old. He put aside that hobby when he married Ruth and started having children, he said.
But, in the 1970s he got the itch to ride again and it became a hobby he and his wife shared for many years.
He rode in many Muscular Dystrophy Association fundraiser (MDA) rides and one occasion they road 6,800 miles in 14 days. He rode with many groups of friends, including former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson.
He and Ruth were married 49 years. Her declining health and untimely death of lung cancer were devastating for him.
He donated his wife’s things -- she was an avid seamstress and knitter -- to St. Aloysius School, where they were presented in a rummage sale with proceeds going to the Tuition Assistance Fund for the school.
Ralph usually attends daily Mass and if there is a project or activity going on afterward, you can bet Ralph will be there helping.
The Ringelstetters have four living children: Terry, Dawn, Luci, and Nick, and six grandchildren: Nathan, Jordan, Spencer, Devin, Mia, and Cameron. They lost a son, Jody, in a motorcycle accident in 1982.
He proudly has all their pictures displayed in his home. Home is where his heart is, but when he needs more to do, he has his parish family.
When he was presented with the award at the parish Chili Cook-off, his daughter, Luci, thanked everyone -- his parish family -- with tears in her eyes. “Thank you for being so good to my dad and for giving him a great purpose to serve here at St. Aloysius,” she said.