Ralph Vance Hooper, 83, died Friday March 12, 2021, at Windward Gardens, surrounded by family. Ralph ultimately succumbed to complications from congestive heart failure.

Ralph was born in Bucksport, on November 12, 1937. He was the son of Floyd and Eula Hooper. Ralph and his family moved to Rockland at an early age. He attended Rockland area schools graduating from Rockland High School in 1956. It was at Rockland High School that he met his wife of 59 years, Betty Lee. They were married on June 16, 1956.

At 6’5” tall, Ralph was one of the tallest basketball players in the state at that time. He excelled at basketball and track and field.

Ralph joined the Air Force in 1956 and proudly served for four years as an assistant crew chief on KC-135, refueling tankers. He was stationed at Castle Air Force Base in California. He earned several special commendations, one of which was when he found a hairline crack in a fan blade inside one of the jet engines, a crack which would have severely damaged the plane and endangered the crew. He often spoke proudly of his years of service to his country. He was also a member of the American Legion.

Ralph and Betty Lee returned to Maine in 1960, eventually buying their home in Rockland in 1966. He lived at that same house until his death. He worked at Marine Collides in Rockland for more than 30 years, retiring in 2000.

After his retirement Ralph started mowing lawns for a few ladies from Betty Lee’s church who had no one to do it. Those few lawns grew to 14 that he cared for, for very little money. He was very fussy about how each lawn looked when he was done.

Ralph was an avid hunter and ice fisherman. He enjoyed teaching his son Randall how to hunt and ice fish as well as taking him golfing for the first time at age five. The game became a lifetime passion of Randall’s thanks to his father. Ralph and Randall enjoyed ice fishing on Alford Lake and traveling to Green Lake in Ellsworth in search of trophy lake trout. Together they caught many nine-pound-plus lake trout.

Ralph enjoyed meticulously tending to his 60’ by 75’ vegetable garden. He could be seen weeding and watering his garden each and every day of the growing season. He also was known to “putter,” as his wife said, in his garage for hours, fastidiously lining up his tools on the bench, cleaning and caring for his mowing equipment, and would also spend hours straightening and saving bent nails and screws.

Ralph adored his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as he would often tell stories and share pictures of them with anyone who would look and listen.

Ralph was predeceased by wife Betty Lee; a newborn daughter Holly Ann; father Floyd and mother Eula, brother Donald, and sister Shearer Simonton.

Ralph is survived by brothers Perry Hooper of Florida, Charles Hooper of Florida; sisters Audrey Payson of Thomaston, Midge Grimes of York; daughter Shelley Crabtree and husband Todd of South Hope; son Randall Hooper and wife Loretta of Warren; grandchildren Casey and partner Alicia of North Carolina, Aaron and girlfriend Jackie of Rockport, Samantha and husband Dan of Durham, Krista and boyfriend T.J. of Bangor; great-grandchildren Carson of Waldoboro and Cameron of Durham; as well as several nieces and nephews.

A walk-through visitation and remembrance will be held from 4 to 6 p.m., Thursday March 18, 2021, at Burpee, Carpenter & Hutchins Funeral Home in Rockland. A private graveside service with military honors will take place at a later date. In lieu of flowers the family suggests a donation in Ralph’s name to the American Heart Association, 51 U.S. Route 1, Suite M, Scarborough, ME 04074.

To share a memory or condolence with the Hooper family, visit their Book of Memories at www.bchfh.com.