My father was not close to my sister and me. In our adult lives, neither of us knew him very well. For some reason, he chose to make his life elsewhere. We found that he was well loved in several social circles, most notably the German Club, the Groton Senior Center, the Center For The Blind, and a group called “The Swimmies.” His two siblings and their families also have some fond memories of him. It is to these people that I dedicate this memorial. — Chris French
Ralph French was born on September 21, 1938 in Elmira, New York to Leonard French and Alice (Warren) French. As he was born, “The Great New England Hurricane ” was raging in Long Island and southern New England. I remember him saying he was born in a flood. He was brought up in Elmira, and also in Tioga, Pennsylvania. He was one of five children: besides him, there were David, Carolyn, Virginia, and Richard. David died at the age of one year, and Carolyn died when she was two. Carolyn had Down Syndrome. Ralph grew up with Virginia and Richard.
He joined the United States Navy on May 5, 1958. As he described it, he “ran away from home” to California with a friend and joined the Navy in San Francisco. At one time he was stationed on a submarine called the Triton. At the end of his career he was stationed on the Fulton, at the New London Submarine Base in Groton, Connecticut. He trained as an electronics technician, and was honorably discharged on May 1, 1963, with the rank of Petty Officer First Class (E-6).
Ralph married Mariellen Vignot on March 9, 1963. Their first house was in Gales Ferry, Connecticut. In 1966, they moved to nearby Mystic. They had two children, Christopher French, born November 25, 1963, and Gillian (French) Kies, born January 24, 1973. Ralph's children carried on the tradition of being born during a major event. Christopher was born on the day that President Kennedy was buried, and Gillian was born on the second day of President Johnson's funeral. Ralph and Mariellen divorced in 1999.
Ralph had a long and varied career in electronics. He worked at General Dynamics, Electric Boat Division (EB) until the 1978 layoff. He then worked at Harris Graphics for many years, travelling around the world to fix printing presses. He worked at Merocel in Groton for a short time before retiring permanently.
In the last years of his life he found happiness with his life partner, Priscilla Allen. They did many things together, and she was with him until the end.
I don't know everyone in these pictures, but I've identified those I can. Ralph's family includes Priscilla Allen and Bobby Lewis. I don't have any pictures of Priscilla. If she sends me one, I'll add it.
Ralph was dedicated to the German Club for many years. He had even served as president.
Ralph was appreciated at his work as well as in his social circles. These are certificates and letters of appreciation which he had accumulated.
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