Remembering Ralph Brookhart
According to Barry Brookhart, his late father Ralph found Pine Island to be paradise.
“He took a lot of pride in doing his part,” said Barry, who admits he’d tried to get his father to come to Tennessee many times to no avail.
Ralph lived in Pine Island Cove, where he was a resident for 30 years, before his passing. He saw the likes of Hurricane Charley, where, his son says, Ralph contracted trench-foot from standing in the water too long due to helping others through the storm. He was an equipment manager, and ran a backhoe in an attempt to clear away the damage left by the storm.
After having witnessed the birth of the Beacon of Hope, which was formed on the island after Charley, Barry says his father became very enamored with the organization.
“He spoke very highly of them,” said Barry, adding that he intends to donate all of his late father’s things to the Beacon thrift store.
Born in 1931, Ralph Brookhart was also a veteran, serving in the U.S. Navy from 1949-1953, where, according to Barry, having been an electronics expert put his father in charge of communications.
Ralph and his wife Doris, who passed several years earlier, had a wonderful relationship with their son Barry, who they adopted when he was just a baby.
“I’m not just saying this because he was my dad,” said Barry. “He was the best man I ever met. He taught me to work hard.”
Long-time friend Jeanne Dumas will always remember Ralph with affection, saying he’d been just like a father to her. Dumas knew him from Pine Island Cove, where he lived for many years, having had a stint as vice president on the board of directors.
“If anything had to be done, Ralph got it done faster than anybody,” said Dumas. “He was the most supportive friend that you could ever have and loved telling jokes.”
It was Ralph’s love for the written word that led him to write his own book, said Dumas. Although he never got it published, she said he was very talented at the craft, as others would also attest, after having helped him prepare his manuscript.
She went on to explain that every day Ralph made it a point to have coffee and a donut at the St. James City General Store, where he was well known and received. After Ralph had been widowed, he met a woman named Peg Barker, who had also lost her spouse, and they hit it off well according to Dumas, who said she didn’t know anyone who didn’t like Ralph. In fact, she credits him for helping her get her own faith back on track after a particularly rough period in her life.
“My dog had died and my marriage was souring, and then Ralph pointed me toward a famous evangelical speaker,” said Dumas, who began listening faithfully and soon after invited Ralph back to church.
“He hadn’t gone to church since losing his wife,” Dumas continued. “He was the one who got me back on track in my faith, and I got him back into church.”
Although Dumas says she misses Ralph every day, she will cherish his memory forever.
“He was the sweetest, kindest, most considerate man. He loved Pine Island Cove, and he loved this island,” said Dumas.