WILLIAM W. RALPH Obituary | Canale Tonella Funeral Home & Cremation Services


Nov 24, 1933 - Feb 04, 2022


November 24, 1933 - February 04, 2022


William "Bill" W. Ralph, 88, of Chocolay Township, died peacefully at home, February 4, 2022, surrounded by his family.

Bill was born on November 24, 1933 in Milwaukee, WI, the son of Edwin Donald and Catherine (Wheeler) Ralph of Hartland, WI. He graduated from Hartland High School in 1951.

Following graduation Bill attended the University of Wisconsin 1951-1952; DeVry Institute in Chicago 1952-1953 (radio and TV). He enlisted in the Army in 1953, and served at Fort Benning, GA, and Fort Rucker, AL, until 1955. Bill worked for CBS Television in Milwaukee, as a TV technician, and then returned to the University of Wisconsin, earning a BS (1960) and MS (1962) in Physics.

Bill met his wife, the former Lois Menzel, at the University and they were married in Madison, WI on April 28,1961.

In 1962, Bill and Lois moved to Green Bay, WI when Bill was hired by the University of Wisconsin- Manitowoc and the University of Wisconsin- Green Bay. He established the Physics Department at both of those institutions. Bill remained in Green Bay for six years, and he and Lois built a home on the bluff in Bay Settlement, overlooking the waters of Green Bay.

In 1968, Bill and Lois moved to the shores of Lake Superior, in Marquette, when Bill joined the Physics Department at Northern Michigan University. He had a long and productive career at Northern until he retired in 1996. Bill was a major force in bringing the telescope and observatory to the university, and was influential in developing courses in computer hardware and instrumentation. He
collaborated with others to develop algorithms in the field of bioinformatics. He
cooperated with scientists from other institutions in NSF-funded research on Northern Lights. He also served on the Faculty Senate, and as Physics Department
Bill was an avid outdoorsman, an accomplished downhill skier (a season pass holder at Marquette Mountain for almost 50 years), a water skier, and windsurfer. He loved his sailboat and from early childhood spent countless happy hours on Planting Ground Lake in Three Lakes, WI. He enjoyed summer- long camping and hiking trips, and knew every logging road and sand trail in northern Marquette County.

Bill is survived by his wife of 60 years, Lois; son, Bill (Wendy) of Yarmouth, ME; three granddaughters, Catherine, Elizabeth, and Margaret Ralph; daughter, Elise Ann Ralph of Chocolay Township; sister, Catherine (Bill) Dillon of Arlington Heights, IL; numerous friends; and a large extended family. He was preceded in death by his parents, Edwin and Catherine Ralph.

A celebration of Bill's life will be held on Friday, June 24, 2022 at 1p.m. at the Presque Isle Pavilion. A luncheon and a time of fellowship will follow the service at the Pavilion until 3p.m.

Bill's family is immensely grateful for the compassionate and capable care he received from Marquette Home Care and Advisacare Home Health and Hospice.

In lieu of flowers memorials may be made in Bill's name to The Chocolay Raptor Center, UP Land Conservancy, or the Caregiver Incentive Project of Marquette County.

Canale-Tonella Funeral Home and Cremation Services is assisting the Ralph family where memories and condolences may be shared at

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Celebration of Life
Fri, Jun 24, 2022 at 1:00 pm
Presque Isle Park Pavilion

Peter White Drive
Marquette, MI 49855

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Luncheon & Fellowship
Fri, Jun 24, 2022 at 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm
Presque Isle Pavilion

Peter White Drive
Marquette, MI 49855

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