In Loving Memory of

Ralph Lee Vermillion


Site Navigation

This page

Other pages





[San Jose Mercury News, Tuesday, February 11, 2003]
VERMILLION, Ralph L. -- Age 73, at rest Saturday, February 8, 2003 in San Jose. Life long resident of San Jose. He worked as an assistant Operations Manager for Santa Clara County Data Processing Dept. Member of the Korean War Veterans Assoc. He was a descendant of Santa Clara Valley pioneers. Loving husband of Irene Vermillion for 52 years. Beloved father of Sherrie and husband Bruce Simpson, Linda and husband Eric Montgomery. Dear grandfather of Michael and Christopher Simpson. Brother of Mary Peacock, Billie Haley, George, Earl, and Robert Vermillion, also the late Evelyn Ferrari and James Vermillion. Visitation hours Wednesday, from 3:00 to 9:00 p.m. with Funeral Service Thursday, February 13, 2003 at 1:00 p.m. at DARLING & FISCHER CHAPEL OF THE HILLS, 615 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos. Interment to follow at Los Gatos Memorial Park, San Jose.


[San Jose Mercury News, Friday, February 21, 2003]

Ralph Vermillion, known as Mr. Fix It

by Kim Vo, Mercury News


Born: Oct 13, 1929, in Sanger.
Died: Feb. 8, 2003, in San Jose.

Survived by: His wife, Irene Vermillion; daughters Sheryl Simpson and Linda Montgomery, both of San Jose; and two grandsons.

Whether it was a broken toy or a family tiff, Ralph Vermillion was Mr. Fix It.

His daughters knew it, and often advised their San Jose neighbors of the fact. "If they had something broken we said, "Oh, my daddy could fix that for you," recalled daughter Linda Montgomery. "And he could. He was amazing."

He once fixed Montgomery's toy Dalmatian so it could again bark and chase its tail. After retiring from Santa Clara County's data processing department, he helped his wife landscape the garden and his other daughter, Sheryl Simpson, remodel her Willow Glen home.

Mr. Vermillion died at his home Feb. 8 from Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was 73.

At his funeral service Feb. 13, his daughters played a tape of "Amazing Grace." Music had always been a strong part of the family's life. In high school, Mr. Vermillion sang tenor in a barbershop quartet. While he and Irene Drake were courting, they would play the ukulele and sing 1940s tunes like "Ain't She Sweet." And they sang every Christmas, explained Irene Vermillion. "It was a tradition. My mother always encouraged him to sing 'O Holy Night' because he sounded so beautiful."

The family Bible traces the Vermillions' South Bay roots to the 19th century, when George W. Papson was born Dec. 15, 1865, in San Jose. Mr. Vermillion was born in Sanger, near Fresno, but moved to the South Bay when he was 6 months old. His life mirrored that of the changing valley: He spent his childhood on his grandparents' ranch and his career on computers.

He regaled his family with tales of early valley life, such as the times he and his seven siblings would lock one another in the sulfur house and threaten to light it. Or when he eagerly climbed into the family truck and drove over the trays of drying fruit. "He knew how to drive; he just didn't know how to stop," Simpson said.

Growing up during the Depression, the family knew how to make do. "My husband always complained because during the fruit season, they had prunes and apricots three times a day," Vermillion said.

The Vermillions married in October 1950. Four and a half months later, Mr. Vermillion was drafted to fight in the Korean War; his wife was four months' pregnant.

He returned home in June 1952 and met his first daughter, Sheryl. He resumed working for the Southern Pacific Railroad in San Francisco but grew tired of the commute. In 1960, Irene Vermillion, then a typist for Santa Clara County's health department, noticed a flier advertising a job involving counting machines and punch cards. "We had no idea that was going to turn into what computers are today," she said.

Mr. Vermillion got the job and would occasionally bring his family to work, showing them the mammoth computers that took up entire rooms. He would demonstrate how, among other things, the machines could play songs and draw pictures.

He was eventually promoted to assistant operations manager for data processing. He worked there until his retirement in 1992.

After retiring, Mr. Vermillion "puttered," his family said. He played golf once a week and walked a mile each day, always using the same route. He built a skylight above the dining room, and helped Simpson lay her hardwood floors.

Montgomery, a self-described "daddy's girl," said she's proud when people note the similarities between them.
"I would love it when people said I looked like him," she said. "I would stand up so tall."



Reverand Wolf's Eulogy

In Memory of Ralph Lee Vermillion

February 13, 2003

I met Ralph at daughter Linda's wedding which I performed, but I cannot say I knew him. However, the family reintroduced him to me this week. From the conversation it is clear that Ralph was true to himself, and them, until the last of his days. Family was central to him throughout.

Just a few days before his death he purchased a new suit which he would wear to a nephew's wedding, and as he told the store clerk, he would then wear it to his own funeral. Unfortunately, he did not make the wedding.

He was graduated from San Jose High School in 1949, worked briefly for the railroad in San Francisco, but shortly was drafted into the army where he spent twenty-one months, eleven of them in the conflict zone in Korea. His friend, Gregg, attended the youth fellowship of the 1st United Methodist Church as did Irene, although her membership was at the Calvary Methodist Church. It was through Gregg that she met Ralph. Gregg was their best man at their marriage in 1950. The friendship was true and lasting as evidenced by the fact Gregg has flown from Georgia to be here today.

The two daughters, Sherrie and Linda were apples of his eye, but he was particularly pleased when they married, which gave him the two sons (in law) whom he (and Irene) wanted and loved. And then the two grandsons, Mike and Chris, came into the family, and contributed even more to his joy. Added to the grandchild was a whole set of nephews and nieces, after all Ralph was one of eight siblings, five of whom are living and three able to be with us today. (He was number six) The women of the family said, he was not the kind of grandpa or uncle who would be out playing ball with them, but rather would sit and talk quietly with them, or visit while playing with the train set. Of course, he would not miss any of their concerts or plays, and would be found with video camera in hand, proudly recording their performances ... and birthdays, Christmas gatherings, and any other "tapeable" occasion. More recently family evening activity has centered on computer games and activities.

During his high school days he sang with a quartet, even being on the radio on one occasion. The family says, he had a pure tenor voice and their home was frequently filled with music. A long time Christmas tradition was for him to sing "O Holy Night" with one of the girls providing the piano accompaniment. But his singing was not restricted to the home. Give him a microphone on any occasion and he would sing to everyone's delight. This he did at several Karaoke's.

He worked his way from a beginning entry level position with the county into an administrative role, where he helped initiate the transition into data processing and later computer-related work. One of his less pleasant assignments was in processing election returns in the earlier years. One of his happiest times was when that work was transferred out of his area. Of course, the pace and requirements were more relaxed at the office back when the girls were children. He introduced them to the wonders of the computer in their visits to the office. Irene and Linda took the bait, while Sherrie gave priority to other interests.

He retired in 1992 after 32 years with the county. Judging by the big smile on his bearded face in his retirement pictures, it appears he was ready and willing.

He and Irene took an extended trip to Vancouver Island, and to Las Vegas on a couple of occasions, but he was more oriented to central California, where with the young family they enjoyed tent-camping, but later enjoyed possibly even more the comfort of motels. His favorite place was Pismo Beach where they visited frequently. But they enjoyed life at home, where as Sherrie says, he simply loved to putter, or work in the garden, early he restored a baby grand piano .... a gift and first piano for Irene. They loved to dance, which they used to do at the YMCA, and for a time enjoyed square dancing.

Earlier I mentioned that the family was central, this was not just his own immediate family, but also Irene's and both of their ancestors. Genealogy became a strong hobby interest researching connections back to the 1600's in the country where both he and Irene had forebears. A cousin has written the first volume of the family history up to the 1923. Ralph had nearly completed the second volume, which another cousin is now preparing for publication.
Asked how people will remember him, the immediate response was he was a peacemaker mediating differences trying to bring harmony. He was often where he was needed, sometimes sensing where help was needed. He was witty, and guarded his humor to make sure it was not at someone's expense. He was a respecter of persons, highly sensitive to racial equity. Irene summed it up nicely when she said, "He lived by the 10 commandments and the golden rule - do to others as he would have them do to him."

Ralph battled his disease and came back for a time. But finally he needed to let go, both for his own peace and for the family, not wanting them to have to suffer with him. It was only six days after his decision that his wish was fulfilled. He was not a religious man in the traditional sense of the word. But we have to come back to Jesus' words, "It is not just those who say "yes, yes, who inherit the kingdom, but those who do the will of my father." The key is living out the love of God and neighbor. Judgment is not ours to make. But we know a good, and loving, and compassionate, and honorable man or woman when we live with them. And so does God. If God is love, and the kingdom of God is love, and if those who live and give for the good of others are loved by God....we may rest in the faith that Ralph is even now enjoying a dimension of love beyond our ability even to imagine.

Prepared by M. David Wolf Los Gatos UMC, (Rt)


Daughter Linda's Eulogy

Gifts and Lessons Daddy gave me
(whether I wanted them or not at the time.)

Rigorous Honesty.
The ability to think for myself, stand up for what's right and not follow the crowd. That was especially hard in my teens, but Daddy insisted.
Knowledge that everyone deserves to be treated with respect - live by the golden rule.
Do what is right, not what is easiest.
That a good sense of humor can ease difficult times.
To love my family and put them first.
To be there for my loved ones.
To laugh at myself and absurd situations.
To look for the bright side of things.
To take responsibility for my actions.
To consider all possible viewpoints when making decisions.
How to be strong during a crisis.
How to dance.
How to fix my car.
How to change electrical switches and outlets safely and do other home repairs.
How to swim in the big breakers at Capitola.
How to cook.
How to read phonetically. His spelling made reading the grocery list "interesting." I had to call him once to translate one item. It turned out to be "sugar."
That computers are cool.
That nature is amazing and must be left as clean or cleaner than when we found it.
How to pick myself up, dust myself off and start again after a failure.

Favorite memories
Holding onto two of his fingers instead of his hand when my hands were very small. He told me later that it gave him the ability to clamp down on my hand with his thumb so I couldn't get away. I used it with my nephews when they were small. I don't know if they remember that.
Standing my life-sized doll next to him as he napped in his chair, saying "Daddy" and hiding so he'd talk to the doll. It was great! We did it more than once and I don't ever remember him getting angry about it. What patience!
Hearing him say "Uh Oh! You go boom-boom!" when I was small and fell down. I was too busy laughing at him to cry.
Catching him petting our cats and when asked about it because he supposedly hated cats he answered, "I only like our cats." If he hated cats, he sure fooled a lot of them.
Having him sing "Oh Holy Night" at Christmas while I accompanied him on piano.
His job: Visiting him at work. The printer that hummed tunes and seeing the latest main frame computers as they came out over the years.
Camping every summer vacation. Once Sherrie wanted pancakes for her birthday breakfast when we were camping at Pismo Beach. It was raining cats and dogs. He stood out in the pouring rain making them. The rain punched holes in the batter as it cooked. We still talk about the "holy" pancakes we ate that morning.
The time we were stuck in bumper to bumper beach traffic on highway 17 and our dog Sandy decided to jump out the window and head for home. Daddy had to jump out of the car and go catch him.
The pride on his face when I rebuilt my first carburetor on my own.
Watching him work his magic with his grandsons when they were babies. There were times only he had the touch to get a colicky baby to sleep, draped across his belly.
The time he pointed to the letter 'O' asked his 2-year-old grandson Michael which letter it was. Michael said, "O," then Daddy wrote two 'O's in a row and told him it was "Uh Oh!"
Helping him build the skylight over their dining room.
Dancing with him at my wedding while singing the duet "Unforgettable" to each other.
Singing with him from childhood right up to last September when we sang "Unforgettable" at the celebration of his sister Evelyn's life after her funeral.

I'll always treasure the fact that he was a sensitive, nurturing Daddy decades ahead of his time. He changed diapers, kissed bumps and bruises, snuggled, cooked wonderful meals and truly listened to the dreams and woes of little girls. He didn't hold to traditional gender roles for things. He wasn't afraid to cry. At a time when most men encouraged their daughters to be secretaries, nurses and teachers, he encouraged us to be whatever we wanted to be. Sherrie says to tell you it isn't his fault she's a teacher. (*said with a smile*) Whenever I was interested in learning something typically considered to be a man's job, he was delighted and taught me. After all, until Sherrie and I married, I was his only son.

Any man can be a father. A lot of them can be a Dad, but it's truly a rare man who is a Daddy when his children are grown. Sherrie and I have been truly blessed. Our Daddy will always be one of those rare, unforgettable men.
Aloha, Daddy.

Return to top

The story of this recording
One of Daddy's favorite things was to hear his girls sing together. When Mom's sister Pearl passed away in 1998, her son John requested us to sing Amazing Grace at his mother's funeral. We knew we'd be too upset to sing, so Daddy video taped us in the living room as we practiced and then sang the song three times through. At that point, Sherrie's voice was tired and my fingers had blisters from the guitar strings because I rarely play these days. He dubbed the best of the three onto a tape that was given to John. Eric remastered this recording from the original video for Daddy's funeral. We got to see and hear Daddy on the tape as he adjusted things between takes.

Return to top


Grandson Michael's Eulogy

It's hard to lose your Grandpa. He was always there at all the important events in my life; baseball games, band concerts, and of course birthdays and Christmas, where he and Grandma spoiled us rotten. One of my earlier memories is from when Chris and I would spend the night at Grandma and Grandpa's and in the morning Grandpa would make us his special waffles - the ones with bacon strips inside them that I'm not sure how much I liked the taste, but I loved the idea because they were fun. Then there were the toys and model trains that he got for Chris and I that I believe he enjoyed playing with as much as us. A bit later, he taught me how to play golf and I really enjoyed being out there on the course with him, talking about everything and nothing all the while.

I remember him coming over and helping us build our house, and how he was the strongest of us all and seemed to know how to use any tool imaginable. Slowly, it came to be that he was asking me to come over and help him with things in the garden and around the house, showing me how to do all sorts of things, and a lot of the time joining me in the work, especially when it was work out in the garden. He always paid me so well for my time, but I would have done it for free. I really enjoyed working with him out there. After working outside for a while we'd come in and he'd usually tell me some stories from when he was little or history about where our family used to live. I think his favorite story was the one about the first time he drove a car, and ended up driving over some crates of fruit and crashing into the barn because he knew how to drive - oh, yes he did. He just hadn't learned how to stop yet. I heard that story so many times, and I always enjoyed it because of how happy he looked when he told that story. I'm thankful for all the time we were able to spend together, and I am very happy that he is no longer in pain. But I am very sad that Grandpa has passed away, and I will miss him greatly.

Eulogy by Lou Horyza, Friend and President of the Korean War Veterans Association.

Ralph was an active member of our Santa Clara County Chapter of the Korean war veterans Association and he and his wife Irene attended many of our dinners and functions until he was no longer able to attend.
Ralph was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1950 and took his training at Fort Ord California, After training he was sent to Korea and served with Company E. 35th. Regimental Combat Team of the 25th. Infantry Division. One of the heaviest hit Divisions in Korea at this time in Aug 1951. He served with this unit until July of 1952 during some of the worst action which included Heartbreak Ridge, then onto Snipers Ridge and then the terrible battle for the Punchbowl.
As a result of these actions he earned and received the Combat Infantryman's Badge, one of the most respected medals a soldier can receive. As General Omar Bradley said, of all the medals he received, the one he is most proud of is the Combat Infantryman's Badge. Ralph also received the United Nations Service Medal and the Korean Service Medal with one bronze star.
We as members of our Chapter of the Korean War Veterans association are proud of Ralph?s service record and are proud to have known him and we will miss him greatly and he will be remembered each year during our annual Memorial Dinner held to remember and pay respect to our fallen comrades.
Thank you
Return to top

Karen Pruitt's tribute

I'm Karen, Linda's lifelong friend. We met in 1962 at age 7. I first met Ralph in '67 when I'd stop by to pick Linda up on our way to Junior High. In '69, the Vermillions bought a house on Hibiscus, two doors down from my parent's. I've seen Ralph off and on for over 35 yrs. During that time I never saw him speak a word in anger. I never saw him ignore or criticize anyone who came in his presence. And even more profound, I never saw him without a smile on his face. His smile was genuine, and his heart was always warm. No matter what crosses he was baring in his own personal life, whether it was stress from his job, or horrible memories from the Korean War, he focused on the people around him, and always had a positive and hopeful attitude. He possessed that rare Wisdom that tells us that the most important thing in life, in fact the only important thing in life, is our relationships. Anyone who knew him at all saw how dearly he loved his family. He was the rock that everyone leaned on. As time goes on, his family will miss him more and more, not less and less. The world would be a much better place if there were more people like him. I thank God that I had the privilege of knowing him.


If you spoke at Ralph's funeral or if you have any memories, stories or feelings you'd like to share, please email or write it in the guestbook.


Return to top



HOME | Photos Of Ralph's Life | Guestbook | Other Tributes