COLUMBIA — Ralph Dobbs was a lifelong learner. He researched the Polled Hereford cattle he raised, the plants he grew — even the health of the 60 Marines who served with him in Nagasaki, providing information to the Veterans Association on the 9-month exposure to radiation the unit experienced there.
"He never lost his quest for knowledge," said Steve Paulsell, a close friend of Mr. Dobbs. Paulsell and his wife visited Mr. Dobbs last Friday at South Hampton Place senior living center.
"I think he was ready to go, but we're sure going to miss him," Paulsell said.
Ralph Dobbs of Columbia died Tuesday, July 22, 2014. He was 91.
He was born Sept. 29, 1922, in Bertha, to Ed and Myrtle (Tetrick) Dobbs.
He attended Ava High School, later enrolling at Southwest Missouri State College, now Missouri State University, in Springfield, and received his bachelor's degree in agriculture from MU. In 1942, he joined the Marine Corps, serving in the South Pacific during World War II.
After Mr. Dobbs was honorably discharged with the rank of captain, he married Edna "Sherry" Sherwood on July 14, 1946, in Cresson, Pa. They had five daughters, all whom Mr. Dobbs took pride in. He was a great father and husband and adored his family, his daughter Sue Dobbs said.
After he married, Mr. Dobbs began teaching vocational agriculture in Bakersfield, and later earned his master's degree from MU and his doctorate in adult education at Indiana University. He began teaching at MU in 1965.
"He was a very supportive, friendly guy," said professor emeritus of the College of Education Irvin Cockriel. Mr. Dobbs was well-liked by his students, he said.
Mr. Dobbs became professor emeritus of the College of Education in 1985.
He was involved in First Christian Church and had many friends there. After retirement, he concentrated his time on a small farm he owned near Ashland.
"His love was really agriculture," his daughter Sue Dobbs said. "He loved giving away his produce." Mr. Dobbs never sold anything he grew.
He'd often hand out produce during "tea time" — celebrations he often held at his rustic cabin — at 10 a.m. on Saturdays. Friends would gather at the cabin to talk and dine on tea and cookies.
"He really delighted in hosting," Paulsell said.
Paulsell, vice president and flight director of the Central Missouri Honor Flight, met Mr. Dobbs after he received a call about Mr. Dobbs going on a flight in 2009. That call started a friendship that lasted until Mr. Dobbs' death.
"I'd just really taken to his personality," Paulsell said.
Mr. Dobbs began volunteering for the program, greeting veterans as they returned home.
"Ralph would be there, in his uniform, saluting every one of our great veterans," Paulsell said. "That was what really moved him the most, to be a part of that brotherhood."
Paulsell described Mr. Dobbs as "a student of everything" who was known for his friendliness and humility.
"He could visit with anyone, he had a way of just identifying with individuals," Paulsell said. "It was never about him, it was always others in his mind."
Mr. Dobbs is survived by his five daughters, Marilyn Schappert of Columbia, Sherry Kaye Dobbs of Columbia, Jeanie Dobbs of San Francisco, Sue Dobbs of Kansas City, and Carol Kvanvig and her husband, Jonathan, of Waco, Texas; sister Juanita Dougherty of Ava; four grandchildren, Philip Schappert and his wife, Kathy, of Atlanta, David Schappert and his wife, Meghan, of Fairfax, Va., Jared Kvanvig and his wife, Savannah, of Columbia, and Brittany Kvanvig of Austin, Texas; and six great-grandchildren, Jack Schappert and Laine Schappert of Fairfax, Va., Cole Schappert, Blake Schappert and Landon Schappert of Atlanta, and Weston Kvanvig of Columbia.
His wife, Sherry, died earlier. Two brothers, Harold and Raymond, and a sister, Ireta Tate, also died earlier.
Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Funeral Home, 1217 Business Loop 70 W. Services are at 10 a.m. Friday at First Christian Church, 101 N. 10th St., with interment to follow at 2 p.m. at the Jacksonville Veterans Cemetery, 1479 County Road 1675, Jacksonville, with full military honors.
Memorial donations may be made to the First Christian Church, 101 N. 10th St., Columbia, MO 65201, or to the Central Missouri Honor Flight, 625 Cherry St., Columbia, MO 65201.