Ralph Radecki led a storied life and lived his values. Ralph Radecki died at home among family and friends on Saturday, July 9, 2022, a gentle, stoically classical death, from cancer, after much suffering.
Ralph was born in South Bend, Indiana, on May 11, 1945. Preceding him in death were his parents, Casimir C. and Monica L. (Andrzejewski) Radecki. Living to cherish his memory are his life companion of 34 years, Gary Looney, and siblings Barbara Chmiel, Janet Michaels, Frederick “Rick” Radecki, and Ruth Wilson, plus twelve nieces and nephews, and many friends.
Ralph graduated in 1959 from Holy Cross Grade School; in 1963 from Saint Joseph High School; in 1967 with a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Edward’s University (Austin, Texas); and in 1973 with a Master’s degree in Education from Ball State University (Muncie, Indiana). In 1983, he lived in Rome, Italy, at the American Academy on a Fulbright Scholarship, during which time he developed his artistic sensibilities and enriched his understanding and teaching of the Classics.
In 1967 – 1968, he taught at Holy Cross High School (New Orleans). From 1968 to his retirement in 2010, he taught English and Latin, incorporating mythology and Classical Studies, at Clay Senior High School (South Bend). He was a yearbook and Latin Club sponsor.
In 2012, he taught Ovid’s ”Metamorphoses” at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (Elkhart). During retirement, until 2020, as a volunteer professor, he taught Classical Studies, including Juvenal, Suetonius, Ovid, Apuleius, and Roman art to adults at the Forever Learning Institute, located at St. Therese Little Flower Catholic Church (South Bend).
As a well-informed and conscientious citizen, Ralph was a strong supporter of progressive values. He lived those values daily.
Ralph’s artistic career of 59 years traces a transition from student work, to observational drawings of Roman architecture, to vibrant landscapes, to still-lives, to striking portraits and figure studies. He also offered private art lessons after retirement.
In April, 2015, the GLBT Michiana Resource Center of South Bend sponsored a well-attended gallery exhibit of his contemporary, but classically inspired, paintings of gods and heroes. In May, 2017, the First Unitarian Church (South Bend) hosted a retrospective of Ralph’s art.
Ralph’s joys included opera, art, film, theater, literature, the writings of Livy, raising orchids and gardening. His home has always been a hospitable hub for good conversation, convivial cooking and dining, and fellowship. Always anticipated were his and Gary’s sparkling, house-jamming gatherings celebrating Halloween and Christmas.
So often, wherever Ralph would be, attention would revolve around a story Ralph would tell. Maybe two stories. Maybe three.
Over the years, a not surprisingly large number of his former students would see him around town, and would walk up with love and respect to meet and greet. It was, indeed, deserved and sweet.
One of those grateful students put it best in an essay on a favorite teacher. After his Clay High School graduation, he chose “that one person who seemed to make a world of difference for me in difficult situations growing up.” He then quoted from “The Once and Future King,” focusing fondly on his favorite teacher, Mr. Ralph Radecki: “Learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. Learn why the world wags and what wags it.” And so the wealth of Ralph’s stories.
The stories that Ralph told help all of us learn. “Know thyself” was the air he breathed. As his students, family, and friends found out, “A good teacher will stay with you forever.”
Deepest thanks to so many kind caregivers who helped Ralph maintain his quality of and joy in life for so long. Special thanks to “Heart to Heart” Hospice Caregivers, with recognition to Heather Miller, R.N., for all her care and help through the most difficult time.
In honor of Ralph’s memory, gifts may be made to Mercy Home for Boys & Girls, Chicago, Illinois (www.mercyhome.org) or the Forever Learning Institute, South Bend, Indiana (foreverlearninginstitute.org), or a charity of your choice.
Cremation has taken place. A celebration-of-life gathering is planned for the future. Palmer Funeral Home—Hickey Chapel was entrusted to assist the family with arrangements.
Online condolences may be left for the family at www.palmerfuneralhomes.com.