Ralph Winston Ellis-- rodeo rider, stock car racer, black diamond skier, master cyclist, experienced hunter and an expert sailor—a man who had a deep love for good wine and grandkids passed away Saturday June 26, 2021 in Houston, TX.
Born on September 25, 1938 in Beaumont, Texas, Ralph, known to his family and close friends as ‘bunny’, grew up on Avenue C, the proud son of a union pipe fitter out of local 195, Robert Ellis, and a strong and a loving mom, Iva Lee Ellis. He was the middle child of three, and, until the day he died, was close to and loved dearly his older sister, Bobbye, and his baby brother Arthur.
A 4:30 am paper boy during junior high, Ralph was a 1957 graduate of Beaumont High. He briefly attended A&M and Lamar University, but had bigger plans that couldn’t wait. Drafted into the Army Ralph was stationed at Red Stone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama for his 2 year stint where he also found time to earn some extra cash as an auctioneer.
Once honorably discharged, Ralph’s great life adventure began in earnest. He was most happy living exciting and unforgettable moments. Fearless and friendly with a twinkle in his eye he was a renaissance man of the world. The hundreds of lifelong friends he made all knew him to be ‘one of a kind’. Someone everyone wanted to be around, drink a beer with, tell a joke to. A man’s man with a killer smile, Ralph found his way to Aspen Colorado where for a time he chopped and sold cord wood—he then owned a one man grease hauling company as this allowed him to be done with ‘work’ by 7:00 am. The rest of the day he was either flying down a ski slope in winter or pedaling way too fast down a mountain road in summer.
Ralph missed Texas and came home. Soon after he was hired by the matriarch of the Schlumberger company, Dominique de Menil, who trusted Ralph for 30 years to be her Director of Real Estate for the Menil Foundation. Ralph single-handedly transformed that organization’s impact and footprint in the Houston area by assembling more than 30 acres in the heart of Houston where it was transformed into a world-class museum and cultural center.
Ralph, always genuine and authentic, could talk easily for hours with the guys doing the landscaping, and then, with the same ease, fly to Washington D.C. where he was a frequent guest in the White House residence of President George W. and Laura Bush. His love of travel also pulled him to Europe’s museums and fine restaurants.
Ralph loved, adored, and was so proud of his children Alexandra and Phillip. But, it was his grandchildren Cale, Jackson Thomas (JT) and Avery who completely stole his heart. ‘Grandpa Bunny’ always had a new toy to give, or a story to tell or a book to read-- ready with a soft lap and a warm hug.
The day before Ralph died he looked outside and said “it’s a beautiful day for a bike ride” and, throwing his bike in his car, off he went to Memorial Park for a spin.
His genuine and loving spirit were always an irresistible magnet for all of us, family and friends, who now miss him greatly and cherish him deeply.
He is survived by his children, Phillip and Alexandra, grandchildren Cale, Avery, and JT, sister Bobbye, and brother Arthur.
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