Ralph James Askin, 88, of Elk Grove, California, passed away on November 5, 2019. He was a most beloved and cherished husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, and friend with diverse interests and passions that took his life in many directions: architect, planner, military intelligence, international traveler, author, illustrator, exhibitor, and bicycle advocate.
Born and raised in Pasadena, he graduated from Pasadena City College and University of California, Berkeley with Honors in Architecture. From 1954-56, he served as a Special Agent in a U.S. Army Intelligence post-World War II German Occupation and Cold War in Munich, Germany.
His architectural career began in private practice with Smith & Williams of Pasadena and South Pasadena, Robert E. Alexander of Los Angeles, and independently as Ralph J. Askin, Architect. He spent thirty years with the State of California serving as Chief Design Architect for the office of the California State Architect in Los Angeles, architect for the Department of Education, Project Manager for the State Office of Project Management and Development, and Chief Architect for the Office of the State Architect in Sacramento.
Ralph was a lifelong rider and promoter of bicycles as a form of nonpolluting, affordable, practical transportation and healthy living. He cycled 55 miles daily to work from Elk Grove to downtown Sacramento, mastered—at age 60—a high wheel penny-farthing which he rode around Sheldon and in the Elk Grove Western Festival Parade, and was a longtime member of the Sacramento Wheelmen. Other affiliations were University of California Alumni Association, Tyrian and Chi Alpha Kappa Fraternities, American Institute of Architects, Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, Counter Intelligence Corps Veterans, and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
World’s best father and family man describe Ralph best. He was married for 66 years to Rosalind Eames Balfour of South Pasadena. They had four children he supported in Indian Guides, 4-H, college, and throughout their lives. He encouraged independence and creativity, and imparted wisdom with a touch of humor including wearing a banker’s visor on allowance day. He was quick to jump on a swing, read books, play games, ice skate, go sledding, and share his humorous Charles Addams books and Tom Lehrer albums. He climbed Mount Whitney, ran a half marathon, hiked in Yosemite and other National Parks, gardened, created original art, and was always busy yet found time to watch his family’s concerts, performances, and sporting events. A zest for travel led to many camping vacations, coastal California bike excursions, and a special Bay Area trip with each grandchild. He traveled to Canada, Mexico, Scandinavia, Europe, and every state in the USA—35 countries in all. An avid researcher, he traced his family history and spent much of 1995-2009 as author, illustrator, and exhibitor of papers on early medieval illuminated manuscripts and historical recreations of extant biblical and medieval ruins.
He will be deeply missed by wife Rosalind; children Stephen and wife Jayann, Carol and husband Bruce, Christopher and wife Ann, and Jennifer and husband Tim; grandchildren Paul and wife Ann, Thor and wife Katie, Destiny, Marc, Andrew, Mollie, Julia, and Natalie; great grandchildren Emily, Ashley, Edward, Andrew, and Henry; and brother Walter and wife Elise.
A gathering for family and friends will be held on Saturday, December 7. In honor of Ralph’s passion for travel, we welcome gifts in memory to the Yosemite Conservancy (yosemite.org) or the national park of your choice.