A Brief History
Ralph French was born on September 21, 1938 in Elmira, New York to Leonard French and Alice (neé 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. His siblings 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, born November 25, 1963, and Gillian, born January 24, 1973. Ralph's children carried on the tradition of being born during a major event. Christopher was born on the day of John F. Kennedy's burial, and Gillian was born on the day of Lyndon B Johnson's burial. 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, traveling 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.
My father left behind a lot of pictures. Since I did not know him well, I will let some of those tell his story.