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Funeral services for Ralph Warren Heap, age 100, of Frederick, Oklahoma, will be held at 2:00 p.m., Saturday, January 20, 2024, at the First Christian Church with Rev. Jim Roberts, pastor, and Rev. Brent Morey, officiating.
Mr. Heap passed away in his sleep on Saturday, January 13, 2024, at the Lawton/Fort Sill Veterans Center in Lawton, Oklahoma, where he had been a resident since late December. Burial with U.S. Army Military Honors will be in the Frederick Memorial Cemetery under the direction of Orr Gray Gish Funeral Home.
A visitation will be held Friday, January 19, 2024, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., at the funeral home.
Ralph Warren Heap was born on September 29, 1923, in Ada, Oklahoma, the second of two children born to Joseph Albert “Bert” and Vernie Leslie (Ebrite) Heap. Known to his family as Warren, he spent the earliest years of his childhood in Ada, in Colorado, and on the road with his traveling salesman father, his mother, and older sister Florence Annie.
Shortly before Warren and his sister started school, the family moved to Seminole, Oklahoma, where his father took a job with the U.S. Post Office. The Heaps purchased a home in Seminole that they later moved to a farm a few miles outside town, and Warren worked on the family farm while attending Prairie View School for most of his childhood. In Warren’s junior year of high school, the family moved to Okemah, Oklahoma, to get away from the oilfields that were having a deleterious effect on his sister’s health. The following year, they returned to Ada, and Warren graduated from Ada High School in May 1941.
After high school, Warren enrolled at East Central State College (now, East Central University) in Ada, where he studied for about a year, before joining his father and his Ebrite uncles to build military housing in Nevada at the start of the Second World War. By the fall of 1942, Warren and his sister Florence had both relocated to Texarkana, Texas, where she worked in the ammunition plant and he was employed at the munitions depot, until he was inducted into the U.S. Army in February 1943. Uncle Sam insisted that Warren be called by his first name, and after several months of training in New Mexico and California, Corporal Ralph Heap shipped out to serve his country, arriving in Italy around Christmas 1943.
Ralph, who would eventually be promoted to the rank of sergeant and given responsibility for leading a crew of bomb workers, was a member of “The Cottontails,” the 722nd Squadron of the 450th Bombardment Group (H), 47th Wing, 15th Air Force, United States Army. Based at a commandeered airfield in Manduria, Italy, he oversaw a team of servicemen who were responsible for loading bombs onto the planes flying raids over enemy-occupied Italy, Germany, and France. One night while he and two of his crewmembers were loading a 2,000-pound bomb onto a B-24, the bomb rolled off the trailer and on top of crewmember Jerry Rynders, crushing his pelvis. Ralph and the second crewmember, John Wagoner, somehow managed to lift the bomb off Rynders, who was then flown to Bari, Italy, for emergency treatment. The incident cemented Ralph’s lifelong bond with Rynders, after whom Ralph named his first son, and left Ralph with back problems for the rest of his life.
By the time the war in Europe ended and Ralph returned stateside in June 1945, he had received two Bronze Stars and two Presidential Unit Citations for his service. Given a 30-day furlough to visit his parents before heading to New Mexico to train on the B-29s that were being used in the Pacific, Ralph traveled by train to Frederick, where his mother and father had relocated in 1944. Upon Ralph’s arrival, his father insisted that he meet a young woman, Edna Lee Brown, who had only recently moved to town from Fort Smith, Arkansas, and was working at the soda fountain at Crescent Drugstore. Ralph followed his father’s advice, asked Edna out on a date, and was immediately rebuffed; she had other plans that night. Ralph persisted, the two had their first date the following night, and on the seventh day of their acquaintance, June 25, 1945, Ralph and Edna were married at the home of Ralph’s parents.
Shortly after the wedding, Ralph headed to New Mexico for his training and was soon joined by Edna. The war ended before the training was complete; Edna returned to Frederick, as did Ralph, once he was decommissioned. Ralph quickly found work as a mechanic at O. Z. Lee’s Frederick Motor Company, the local Chrysler Plymouth dealership, and worked there in various capacities for the next 10 years, as he and Edna established themselves in town and had their three children: Jerry Bob, Dianne Leslie, and Roger Lynn. In June 1955, after securing a personal loan from Roy Emenhiser, the father-in-law of his close friend Dr. Horace Holloman, Ralph purchased the Frederick Motor Company from Harold Skinner (who had bought out Mr. Lee three and a half years earlier).
An up-and-coming businessman, Ralph joined the Frederick Chamber of Commerce in the summer of 1955, serving as chamber president in 1963. He joined the Frederick Lions Club that same summer and was an active member for 68 years, earning the national organization’s Melvin Jones Fellowship Award in 2023, the Lions Club’s highest form of recognition, awarded to members who embody humanitarian ideas consistent with the nature and purpose of Lionism. Four years after purchasing the motor company, Ralph added farming to his business pursuits, buying his first farm with horned Hereford cattle in 1959; he continued to farm and raise cattle until the time of his death. In the late 1970s, he and close friend Ray Fryer purchased the Frederick Hotel, and Ralph ran the hotel and remained involved in the operations of the Frederick Motor Company until the late 1980s.
While Ralph was still serving in Europe in 1944, his parents placed his membership in Frederick’s First Christian Church, which he attended faithfully for the next 79 years, serving as an elder, board member, and generous supporter. Over the years, his civic engagements included leadership roles in the local Boy Scouts troop when his sons were involved in the 1960s, and 40 years of service on the board of the Community Action Development Corporation/RECAP.
In the mid-1970s, Ralph took up flying as a hobby, purchased a couple of small planes, and earned his IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) pilot’s license. He was such a skillful pilot that he successfully brought his plane down on farmland without injury to anyone onboard on more than one occasion when he encountered unusually stormy weather or experienced mechanical issues. He was an avid domino player, and for decades enjoyed gathering with local businessmen and farmers on most weekday mornings for a cup of coffee and conversation at an ever-changing series of local cafes. Until very recently, Ralph was also the proud holder of the key to the longest continuously rented mailbox at the Frederick Post Office: Box 505, which his father first rented when joining the post office staff in 1944 and which Ralph took over in 1946, when his father transferred to the post office in Altus. Until very recently, Ralph visited the Frederick Post Office almost daily and could be spotted most mornings patiently waiting in his pickup until a kind passerby offered to retrieve his mail—especially when he was expecting the latest notice from the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes.
Ralph and Edna enjoyed more than 61 years of marriage, until her death on July 21, 2006, in Frederick. Ralph was then fortunate to meet Catharina Theodora Hendrika “Ine” (Everkes) Weustink, whom he eventually convinced to marry him on May 3, 2008, in Frederick. Together, they shared the highs and lows of the last 16 years of Ralph’s life, developing a deep and loving bond.
Ralph was preceded in death by his parents: Joseph Albert “Bert” and Vernie Leslie (Ebrite) Heap; his wife: Edna Lee (Brown) Heap; his son: Jerry Bob Heap; and his sister: Florence Annie (Heap) Davis and her husband Edwin “Ed.”
He is survived by his wife: Ine (Everkes) Heap; his daughter: Dianne Allen (Bobby) of Tolar, Texas; his son: Roger Heap (Nancy) of Frederick; two stepchildren: Dorane Vanderlaan (John) of Cushing, Oklahoma, and Berry Weustink (Bianca) of the Netherlands; six grandchildren: Chad (Jérôme), Tiffany (Frank), James (Bridget), Todd (Amy), Cody (Mindy), and Aaron (Bridgette); five stepgrandchildren: Shannon (Mason), Leanne (Shane), Dennis, Maik, Naomi, and Nicky; 20 great-grandchildren; two great-great-grandchildren and one on the way.
Memorial contributions may be sent to the First Christian Church, 500 N. 15th Street, Frederick, OK 73542, in loving memory of Ralph Heap.
Orr Gray Gish Funeral Home
111 N. 11th Street, Frederick, OK 73542 (580) 335-2112
"Service Beyond Expectation" SINCE 1905