Ralph Edward Gorman, Jr. September 19, 1928 - August 23, 2017
“There‘s a Spirit can ne'er be told” are a few of the words from “The Spirit of Aggieland,” Texas A&M’s school song. The song speaks of an incredible spirit. A particular former student of Texas A&M, a father, a husband, a brother, and a friend also had an incredible spirit. Ralph Edward Gorman, Jr. had a positive, optimistic spirit that was contagious to all who met him. He also had an exuberance that lit up the room when he walked in the door. Ralph was always the life of the party.
On Wednesday, September 19, 1928, a baby boy was born to Ralph Edward Gorman, Sr. and his wife, Mabel Ann, in the coastal town of Port Arthur, Texas. Little Ralph Edward, Jr. flourished in Port Arthur as he grew up with the salty air, the ever-present sea gulls, and many friends. With his captivating personality, Ralph was quite popular at Thomas Jefferson High School. Many times he would invite his friends to his house to hang out and enjoy life. He still has many high school friends and always attended the class of 1947 “reunion” Christmas party organized every year by his dear childhood friend, Tressie Shiflett. Many times he was asked to be the Master of Ceremonies at those parties.
Growing up in Port Arthur, Ralph had a dream to achieve a higher education at Texas A&M University. He knew that to achieve his goals he would have to save the money to attend classes. In the summers of 1946 and 1947, Ralph worked as an able-bodied seaman on two oil tankers to earn money for tuition for college. The work was hard, but Ralph knew one day it would be well worth it. In 1947, Ralph Gorman, Jr. graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School. The next fall semester, he started his life as a Texas Aggie.
Like many Aggies, Ralph embraced the culture and the spirit of the school and its world-famous Cadet Corps. He began as a ‘fish‘, living at the Annex which was a World War II Army Airfield several miles from the main campus. He later moved to Dorm #2, where he lived during his junior and senior years in the Corps.
Along with achieving his education, Ralph immersed himself in daily activities around A&M. He was president of the Port Arthur Hometown Club, a columnist and Sports Editor for The Battalion, Intramural Manager, a cook, a soda jerk at The Cave, and a donut maker in the wee hours at “George’s.” Ralph also worked as a spotter for visiting broadcasters at Aggie sporting events, “babysat” for faculty members, and wrote weekly columns for The News, the newspaper for Port Arthur, about hometown boys who were attending Texas A&M.
In his Junior year at Texas A&M, Ralph and legendary doctor, Dr. James H. “Red” Duke ‘50, decided to paint the water tower ball. Luckily neither were expelled. During his time at Texas A&M, Ralph earned every nickel and dime. He would proudly proclaim that he “saved money to attend A&M…never had a buck from home.” He even had to save for his clothes, uniforms, and books. Many times Ralph couldn’t go out with friends because he didn’t have the money to buy the beer or Cokes.
Ralph valued his education and his experience at A&M. His hard work for and during his education paved the way for a lifetime of work ethic and beliefs. However, he still found ways to have fun. Ralph also squeezed in a few poker games through the years at Texas A&M. His experience at A&M influenced him for life even after he graduated in 1952. He kept up with many of his friends from Aggieland, and he greatly enjoyed reunions where he ran into people he knew so well many years ago. He was a proud member of the “Aggie Diehards” from 1980 to 2008. Ralph could be found next to their famous “church” bus drinking beer before many home games. His love of Texas A&M continued with his own children. Ralph truly lived out the saying “Once an Aggie, always an Aggie.”
During his senior year at Texas A&M, Ralph married his first wife, Eva. Together Eva and Ralph had two children, Laura and Greg. Ralph loved his children. Newly married and newly graduated, Ralph joined the United States Army, entering as a Second Lieutenant in 1952 and was honorably discharged as a Captain in 1954.
After completing his service to our country, Ralph joined the workforce. However, he came to find out that “desk jobs” were not for him; he needed to be out with people. He soon quit his first job and became a real estate appraiser. Ralph worked in real estate from 1954 to 1957. Working as a real estate appraiser readied him for a 48-year career in commercial construction. Ralph‘s keen mind and near-photographic memory served him well as he led building projects from giant warehouses to schools to restaurants like Bennihana of Tokyo and Houlihan‘s Old Place. Ralph retired from construction in 2006 but he didn‘t slow down. As he wrote to Texas A&M’s AggieNetwork, he “gambled on race horses since retirement” whenever he found a “good bull” horse.
In 1977 Ralph was set up on a blind date with a witty, fun loving lady named Roberta whom everyone knew as Muffy. Ralph fell head over heels for Muffy and they stayed attached at the hip until her death. Along with Muffy, Ralph loved and helped her finish raising her three boys, Christian, John and Michael. After they married, they were a blended family with five children and both loved and cherished them all. Christmas Eve with the Gormans was legendary for its “gift exchange“ presents and good cheer.
After mourning Muffy’s death, Ralph chose to embrace his positive spirit once again and eventually attended a party with the ‘Dallas 200‘ club, and the healing began. He became a member of Dallas Who’s Who and the Dallas 200 club. Both groups included great company and dancing – two of his favorite things! The gatherings reminded him of the annual Dallas Martini Foundation & Trust parties that Ralph and 29 of his friends hosted for 3,000 of their closest friends with martinis and champagne flowing and lots of dancing.
Ralph’s family commented that all throughout life, Ralph always lived every day like it was his last. Along with his Aggie can-do attitude, Ralph had a tremendous sense of humor. No matter where Ralph went, he always ran into people he knew whether from Texas A&M, the Army, or previous work experience. He never met a stranger. His personality was immediately captivating and endearing. With his charming personality, he was considered the unofficial “Mayor” of the Treemont Retirement Community by residents and staff alike. He was the life of the party at Treemont’s weekly dance where he loved to Jitterbug. Ralph always had a store of wisdom, knowledge, and sayings that eventually became known as “Gormanisms” which he wrote down for the benefit of his family and friends. Ralph Edward Gorman, Jr. will always be known as an honest father, a loving husband, a funny friend, a devoted brother and a friendly Aggie.
To the sorrow of his family and many friends, Ralph Edward Gorman, Jr. passed away on Wednesday, August 23, 2017 in Dallas, Texas. He went to “join the best” as he rose with others to answer his own roll call. Ralph is survived by his loving children, Laura Moughty and her husband, Christopher, Greg Gorman ‘89 and his wife, Val, Christian McGhee, John McGhee ’88 and his wife, Kathryn, and Michael McGhee ’90 and his wife, Pebble; his six grandchildren, Anna Gorman, Joshua Gorman, Michael McGhee, Matthew McGhee, Sarah McGhee, and Hannah McGhee; his sister Marsha Sonnenberg and her husband, Litz; his brother Gale Gorman and his wife, Robin; his girlfriend of 14 years, Faye C. Briggs; and many Aggie classmates and friends. Ralph is preceded in death by his beloved wife Roberta Ann “Muffy” Gorman; and his parents Ralph Sr. and Mabel Gorman.
A memorial life celebration service will be held on Saturday, September 16, 2017 at 5:00 pm at Hughes Family Tribute Center, 9700 Webb Chapel Road in Dallas. A public visitation will be held from 3:00 PM to 5:00 pm the same day. Family and friends are encouraged to wear Aggie Maroon in support of Ralph and his faithful love to Texas A&M University.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be made to: The 10th annual Dragon Dash of Castle Hills benefitting the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research. Hannah McGhee, one of Ralph’s granddaughters, suffers from Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS). Memorials can be made online at http://www.TheDragonDash.org or can be mailed to: FPWR, Dept. LA 23216, Pasadena, CA 91186-3216;
and The Canterbury Episcopal School, a Pre-K through 12th grade Christian college preparatory school serving southern Dallas and northern Ellis counties. Anna & Joshua Gorman, two of Ralph’s grandchildren, attend Canterbury. Memorial gifts can be made at www.CESfriends.org or mailed to The Canterbury Episcopal School, 1708 N Westmoreland Road, DeSoto, Texas 75115.
Ralph was as “True to each other as Aggies can be.” He will be missed for his fierce love of family, friends and Texas A&M. As many friends and family have said throughout his life, “there will only be one Ralph.”
Ralph’s children would like to thank his sister and our aunt, Marsha Sonnenberg, for her selfless care of our dad during the last years of his life.