Ralph Staunton was just a typical OLLI member. We were often classmates. I knew who he was from early on. In nearly every class he’d say something that caught my attention. We became friends during the Yeats poetry class. He noticed that I kept opening my mouth. We’d talk before and after class about our Irish experiences, sharing a bit of blarney. Ralph had dozens of Irish stories that he loved to share. After World War II he settled in Southern California and began taking Irish step dancing lessons. Soon, a son was born on St. Patrick’s Day. He did extensive research on his Irish origins. He visited the Staunton Hotel bordering St. Stephen’s Green on his Dublin trip.
I told Ralph that I planned to teach an Irish history class and he was all in. He offered to be one of the class liaisons - making announcements, passing out handouts, walking handheld mics around the room and the like. When registration opened before that first session, Ralph approached me with a worried look. “I’m afraid they are going to cancel your class. There’s no interest in Irish history. You won’t get enough students.” But Ralph was wrong. We eventually got 25 sign-ups. The class was on. For six years, Ralph never missed a single Irish class. He was always there to serve as my aide even after liaisons went away. He attended more of my classes than I did.
Sadly, Ralph passed away two years ago this May. But his devotion to OLLI lives on. His family trust distributed $25,000 to OLLI. That was enough to fund the Ralph Staunton Endowment, a legacy gift that will continue supporting OLLI through the years.
Ralph Staunton was just a typical OLLI member – a great classmate, a super volunteer, a generous benefactor, and a friend.