Brother Ralph Joseph Edmiston, CSC
March 10, 1937 – August 4, 2014
The prayers of the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross are requested for the repose of the soul of Brother Ralph Joseph Edmiston, CSC, a member of the Moreau Province of Brothers and Priests. Born in Philadelphia, PA, Br. Ralph died in Valatie, NY on August 4, 2014. He was in his 47th year of religious life in the Congregation.
Brother Ralph Edmiston was born March 10, 1937 in Philadelphia, PA to Joseph Edmiston, a salesman, and Genevieve Brady. He had an older sister, Joyce. Ralph was baptized April 18, 1937 at St. Athanasius Church in Philadelphia, PA and received the sacrament of confirmation on October 23, 1946 at St. DenisChurch in Havertown, PA.
Ralph received a Catholic education from primary school though college, beginning with St. Denis Elementary school, then Malvern Prep High School and then Villanova University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Marketing.
Following his graduation from Villanova in 1958, Ralph was employed as a department manager for J.C. Penny Company in Upper Darby, PA until 1965. His academic background and the skills he probably exhibited at this time in ‘sales’ most likely came into play later throughout his years of ministry in Development Offices for various Holy Cross Schools.
During this time, he was also in the reserves for the U.S. Marine Corps, seeing active duty March 1960 through September 1960. He then served 5 years in the reserves and was honorably discharged on January 15, 1966 with the rank of Corporal E-4. Ralph wrote on his application to the Congregation that during a weekend drill he picked up a newspaper in the chapel and read an advertisement for the Brothers of Holy Cross.
Several months later he saw the advertisement again. It was then that he wrote requesting information. He immediately received an application, but more importantly, a handwritten, two-page letter from Br. Maurus O’Malley in which Br. Maurus asked Ralph to pray for other young men also seeking information on religious life. Ralph described this as a ‘turning point’ in the discernment of his vocation.
Ralph Edmiston entered the Holy Cross Candidacy program on June 26, 1965, was received at St. Joseph Juniorate, Valatie, NY and then was received into Holy Cross at St. Joseph Novitiate on August 22, 1965. Brother Ralph made his first profession on August 23, 1966 and then professed his final vows on August 23, 1970. Following his first profession, since he already had a bachelor’s degree, Ralph enrolled as a graduate student at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, IN, 1966-1967.
Brother Ralph began his ministerial life in Holy Cross as a teacher at Holy Cross High School, Flushing, NY in the fall of 1967. He taught there for one year and then for two years at St. John the Baptist School, Hillsdale, NJ. In keeping with his love of sports, during this time he was an instructor at the summer basketball camps at Holy Cross High School. In 1970 he went to Saint Edmond’s Academy, Wilmington, DE, first in the classroom and then from 1973-1985 in the Development Office. He was also Athletic Director and Moderator of the Father’s Club.
Brother Ralph was awarded the Rev. John J. Sheehy Award in May 1981 by the Catholic Youth Organization, Diocese of Wilmington, DE for youth work in the diocese. During his time at St. Edmond’s, he returned to Villanova University to receive a Master’s Degree in Education in 1978.
Having found a niche in Development, Brother Ralph then returned to serve as Development Director and Alumni Director from 1985 to 1993 at Holy Cross High School. During this time, he also enjoyed coaching freshmen basketball and varsity golf. In the fall of 1993, he moved to Bishop McNamara High School, Forestville, MD, to continue ministry in the field of Development. In 1996, Ralph enjoyed a short sabbatical of one semester at the University of Notre Dame, which just happened to coincide with the football season (!)
He returned to assist in the Development Office at Holy Cross High School. There he became known for his ability to organize the highly successful yearly Walk-a-Thons, until his retirement in 2013. He was tenacious in getting local merchants to donate free gifts to entice the students to solicit sponsors for themselves. When turned away, Ralph would doggedly return a year later, offering the merchant once again the incredible opportunity to support the school by giving free merchandise. How could they refuse? The well-organized army of hundreds of young men from the school walking through the local streets, accompanied by the police, became an expected annual event. To the end, Ralph continued to try to outdo himself every year by a bigger net profit.
Eventually, due to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Brother Ralph’s health declined and in 2013 he retired to St. Joseph Center in Valatie, NY. Throughout chemo-therapy and beyond, Ralph maintained a positive attitude and solicited the prayers of the community. He kept voicing a ‘marine’ attitude that he was going to ‘beat this’. Brother Ralph Edmiston passed into the presence of the Risen Lord on August 4, 2014 at St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY.
We give thanks to the Lord for the life of our dear Brother Ralph. We are grateful for all his ministerial efforts, his life as a community member and his life of service to the Lord as a religious of Holy Cross. Please join the members of the Moreau Province in praying for the repose of his soul and the consolation of his family, co-ministers and friends.
Brother Ralph is survived by his sister, Mrs. Joyce E. Shew, of Broomall, NJ and numerous nephews, including Lawrence D. Shew and family, Joseph J. Shew, and Edward Shew and family and nieces including, Anne S. Bradley and family and Mary Gen Zeoli and family.
– Br. William Zaydak, C.S.C.
Asking, Seeking, Knocking
Again, I extend our sincere condolences to you, Joyce, and to Larry, Joe, Ed, Anne and Mary Gen and your families. We share your sense of sadness and grief at the death of Brother Ralph.
After you, Joyce, among those gathered here today, Brother Dave Parrish, Brother Fred Cosgrove, and I are probably the ones who knew Ralph the longest. It was 49 years ago right around this date that Ralph, Dave, and I moved here to St. Joseph Novitiate where Fred had already preceded us by 6 months. There were 22 of us moving in to start our novitiate year. Ralph was the oldest among us, one of four older candidates among a group of 18-year-olds. In retrospect, that had to have been a challenging situation, which Ralph made the best of by channeling the high energy of those late-teens through his organized sporting events. And, of course, everything was plotted out on a yellow, lined legal pad in a very distinctive script.
In thinking about what to say about Ralph’s life as a Brother of Holy Cross, I considered several passages from the scriptures. The most appropriate one, I believe, is Jesus’ instruction to his disciples in the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
Now, doesn’t that sum up Ralph’s approach to ministry and to life? Well, let me share an anecdote with you that will show you that when it came to the art of asking, Ralph learned the hard way. Our novitiate year, 1965-1966, got off to a momentous start. Pope Paul VI left the Vatican and came to New York to address the United Nations and to celebrate Mass at Yankee Stadium. This was such a big event that Brother Elmo, our novice director, wiped out the schedule for the day, brought the TV down to the rec room and let us watch the day unfold. From the Pope’s arrival at JFK that morning, through his speech at the UN, then the Mass at the stadium, and finally his departure, we novices remained glued to that black and white TV. Having been deprived of TV since our arrival in Valatie in June, this was a big deal. Imagine Ralph, deprived of his beloved Phillies and Eagles for a whole season. Nineteen Sixty-Five was also the year that the NFL and the AFL started talking about a merger, thus setting the stage for what would eventually be called the Super Bowl Championship. Therefore, the 1965 NFL championship game was going to be a momentous event, the end of an era. And the game was going to be played on Sunday, January 2. It was still the New Year’s holiday and a Sunday, so Ralph took it upon himself to ask Brother Elmo if we could watch the championship game on TV. Never acting out of self-interest of course, the asking probably went something like this: “Brother Elmo, some of the novices wanted to know if they could watch the NFL championship game on Sunday.” You only had to look at the expression on Ralph’s face when he came back to the rec room to know that on that occasion Ralph neither received, found, nor had a door opened for him.
We all know that Ralph always had a scheme, but Ralph was not a schemer. He always had a greater good in mind, something that is attested to by his years at Holy Cross High School, where he organized and carried out the annual walk-a-thon. I don’t know how many projects at Holy Cross benefitted from Ralph’s success, but I do know that most projects at Holy Cross were undertaken and completed primarily because of Ralph’s success. And I have a number of tee-shirts to prove it. There is one caveat to Ralph’s always having the greater good in mind when carrying out one of his schemes. That has to do with his schemes to acquire Notre Dame football tickets. These most valuable of all commodities made wonderful incentives, prizes, and items for silent auctions. But how was it that so many times one of those precious tickets wound up in Ralph’s wallet?
Ralph was a kind and thoughtful person. I never heard him speak ill of a co-worker or another brother. He may have been bothered by someone’s lack of cooperation with him or by an administrator’s decision, but that did not turn him against the other nor did it make him bitter. Ralph always forged ahead. I was the beneficiary of Ralph’s thoughtfulness on the occasion of our 25th anniversary of vows. Ralph invited me to attend a Mets game with him at Shea Stadium. Throughout the game he kept saying, “Oh, look,” and he would point to some message that popped up on the announcement board. Finally, a message popped up saying, “Happy 25th Jubilee to Brother Ralph Edmiston and Brother George Schmitz.” We got a good laugh over that, but I had to remind Ralph that it’s supposed to be 15 minutes of fame, not 15 seconds.
Asking, seeking, knocking. Don’t these three words resonate as we ponder the mystery of Ralph’s final months among us? What he was asking for – a return to full health – was not to be received. However, what he sought when he first entered the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1965 was found here in these last months. Ralph’s final months here were filled with the care, the concern, and the love of his brothers and of the staff members here at the Center. How well everyone here at St. Joseph Center lived up to the ideal expressed in our constitutions: A community must reach out in purposeful and sensitive ways to members who are sick or sorrowful. When members retire or encounter a breakdown of health, we must have communities to receive and provide for them. We gather as a community to anoint any brother threatened by serious sickness or injury or disabled by age, and appeal in prayer for the recovery of his body and the generous perseverance of his spirit. And when we come to die, we need to know that especially then our confreres stand by us, for we are sustained and remembered all the more in their prayers (Constitution 3 Brotherhood; Article 37). Early on Monday morning, when it was God’s turn to knock, Ralph was ready to accept that most precious of all prizes, one that he will never have to surrender again for the benefit of others. Ralph’s labors have been rewarded with the prize of life of eternal peace.
Delivered by Brother George C. Schmitz, CSC
St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY
Saturday, August 9, 2014
The Holy Cross High School family mourns the passing of Brother Ralph Edmiston, C.S.C., a beloved member of the high school community who died yesterday morning after a two year battle with cancer. Brother Ralph’s ministry served the high school mostly in his work within our Advancement Department and was well known throughout Queens for his promotion of our annual walk-a-thon. As he moved about town gathering support for this important annual event, his ministry was often one of presence and concern for the people he encountered. There is rarely a place I go where someone does not ask me about Brother Ralph. His ministry brought honor to the Church and Congregation and fame to our high school.
Brother Ralph is now among the Saints and reunited with those he loved and who have gone before him in faith. I have no doubt, that upon that different shore and in that greater light, Brother Ralph continues to work on our behalf to advance the mission of Christian education here on Earth.
Please join me in prayerful support for his beloved sister, Joyce, and the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross who grieve his passing.
May he and all the souls of the faithfully departed, through the mercy of heaven, rest in peace.
– Father Walter E. Jenkins, C.S.C., Ed.D., President
The Good Brother
First of all I want to thank Brother William for allowing me to say a few words this morning in memory of my friend, Brother Ralph. I am very honored to be given this opportunity.
I first met Brother Ralph in June 1965. It doesn’t seem like 49 years ago. We were both candidates in that little house down by the edge of the road here at Valatie. With us were Brother George Schmitz and Brother David Parrish. I think it was a class of about 22 at that time. Brother Ralph was 10 years older than the rest of us. He played first base when we played softball. I knew that he was from Philadelphia. I was only a young 17 year-old kid at the time, but I remember those days as if it was yesterday.
I don’t remember seeing much of him again for a while until he returned to Holy Cross High School in 1985. That was in the early years of our Development Office. And I remember him running the bookstore. You can just imagine what kind of operation that was! We always spoke about how the skills he used in the bookstore came from being a salesman at JC Penny for many years. Those skills remained with him for the rest of his life. We always talked about his love of Villanova basketball since both of us were Villanova alumni. In 1985, the year Brother Ralph returned to Holy Cross High School, Villanova won the national championship. He could not have been happier. In 1986, he helped us start our first Holy Cross High School basketball camp which he worked on for many years. I use the word “worked” generously here, because we know Brother Ralph well. You know that for him, to work meant to show up for a couple of hours, show up again at lunch time and then leave for a couple of hours again.
One year he coached our freshman basketball team. Brother Ralph would always talk about the great successes he had coaching basketball at Saint Edmond’s, Delaware. He truly loved the guys that played for him all those years ago.
Right through to the 2013 season, when illness started to take a toll on him, he would always sit at the end of the Holy Cross bench as the self-proclaimed Holy Cross basketball moderator, with paper bag in hand full of goodies, a big glass of Coca-Cola with no ice, which most of the time he spilled on the floor. We used to tease him that he was only the ‘warm weather’ moderator because when the team would travel for Christmas tournaments he would go as long as they were heading south to the warm weather or to his favorite state of Delaware, or to the Philadelphia area. If they were going to Florida or Washington or New Orleans or Hawaii, Brother Ralph would be on the trip. But if they were going north to Binghamton or Syracuse or somewhere where it was cold, all of a sudden he would say “I can’t go that week, I need to go see Joyce and the kids” or would have some other excuse.
He left Holy Cross High School in the late 80s for a few years at Bishop McNamara, Forestville, Maryland. The rumor that I heard is that, basically, he drove my good friend Brother Francis Ellis nuts with his operation of bingo at that time.
He came back to Holy Cross High School and that’s where the legend really grew: being active in the golf outing, being one of our golf coaches, winning a few championships; his creation of the spring raffle with unbelievable ticket sales. And, of course, his famous Walkathon.
Fifteen years ago, when Ralph came to Brother Stephen and me with this plan, he said we could raise some money doing it. Stephen and I looked at him, and asked, “What do we know about a Walkathon? What do you think, Ralph?” He put it together for us and over all those years, he raised over $1.3 million – all of which went to special projects at Holy Cross. It was a great idea which has been copied by so many that we have named ours after Brother Ralph.
He would haunt local merchants. Every bar and every restaurant on Bell Boulevard would see him coming with his shopping bag. The Mets, the Yankees – no matter who it was – they would run the other way when they saw him coming. No one could get tickets to the games – whether they be for the Mets, the Yankees, the Phillies, Notre Dame football, the big basketball tournaments – no one could secure as many tickets for nothing as Brother Ralph did over the years.
He always referred to himself as the ‘good Brother’ and would ask, “Who could say no to the good Brother?” He would always tell the merchants “it’s for the boys.” As I said, merchants would literally run the other way when they saw Ralph. He would go to the Mets and the Yankees for game tickets, particularly when they would have their giveaway days. If they were handing out one bag as a giveaway, he would haunt the man in charge to give him 10 of everything. And of course, he would save these hats, bobble head dolls, and everything else for future Walkathons.
Every year, we would kick off the Walkathon assembly with Coach Lloyd introducing Brother Ralph as a five-star general, the Admiral of the Fleet, the man who invented the Walkathon, and of course, the kids would always give Brother Ralph a standing ovation.
This past November, we actually called him while he was in Valatie, and the kids gave him a standing ovation over the cell phone while we were on the phone with him. He would always repeat the same story. Because the student needed to bring in $100 to walk, he would always tell the young man, “There are many ways to raise $100…” Once the kids were here for a year, they knew the rest of the speech… “You can get one relative to give you $100; you can get two relatives to each give you $50; you can get 10 merchants to give you $10 each, or you can get five dollars from 20 people in order to come up with the hundred.”
And of course, there was always the famous Brother Ralph accounting system. I don’t think that the accounting firm of ‘Edmiston, Edmiston and Edmiston’ was ever audited for its accuracy. He was really a softy at heart. For any young man that pleaded poverty and could not afford to pay for the Walkathon, Brother Ralph would always find a way to take care of him.
We all know that he was a hoarder. I could never see the back seats of his car. At times you couldn’t even climb into the front seat of his car because of all the stuff that he kept in there! His office, which I now have the privilege of operating from, was so full he actually lived out in the hall. Many years ago, and Susan can attest to this, we bought him all new furniture in an effort to get him out of the hallway and back into his office. That didn’t work – he still worked out of the hallway. I believe that when he finally moved out of his rooms – he had more than one upstairs – the Brothers must have had some time clearing out all the stuff that he had saved over the years.
I could never understand his logic when he would ask his provincial a year or two before his anniversary – could he take the gift or a trip now? He would always say that he was worried about not making it to his next anniversary, and so he wanted to celebrate it now. He told me once that I should try the same routine with my Social Security, to start collecting early, but I don’t think that Social Security was really interested in that at that time.
Brother Ralph loved many things. He loved his sister, Joyce, and her family. I can tell you, Joyce, that you truly were a saint. You did so much for him over so many years. Everything that you did for him was incredible. He would always tell us about how indebted he was to you for everything that you did for him.
He loved his Philadelphia Phillies, Villanova basketball, Notre Dame football. And although he would deny it to this day, he loved the idea of having four or five birthday parties every year. He never stopped having birthday parties. The office staff, his staff, or anyone at all was welcome to celebrate his birthday.
He loved VIP pizza; he loved going to Wendy’s and getting cream of mushroom soup; he loved his turkey club sandwich with mayo. But he was very particular about things like that. I remember that one time, after he had his hip replaced, he was at North Shore Rehab Center and he called me – which he was known to do. He would call all sorts of people for things like chocolate chip cookies or whatever. So he called me and asked if I could stop at Monahan’s in Bayside and get him a turkey club sandwich with mayo. I had not been intending to do that, but since it was the “good Brother” asking, I did so. I brought the sandwich to the rehab center, and somehow it wasn’t quite exactly what he asked for. To hear him, you would’ve thought I had committed one of the cardinal sins of the Church because I screwed the order up.
He loved Carvel ice cream; his black and white sundaes. And he always loved the ‘two for one’ idea. He loved being a former Marine. I can’t actually picture Brother Ralph carrying a gun anywhere for active duty, but he was proud of being a Marine. Most of all, above everything else, Brother Ralph loved being a Holy Cross Brother for all these years. He loved the kids at Holy Cross and Saint Edmond’s, and they loved him. He was, and always will be, one of the legends of Holy Cross High School.
Ironically, the Phillies are playing the Mets tonight, and, if I know Brother Ralph, he’s probably angling out of some chores, complaining to St. Peter about a bad hip or something like that, in order to watch the game. He’s probably hoping to be in the first row in front of the largest possible TV screen, because that is what he needed to watch the game. He probably has a pocket full of notes stuffed in that top pocket of his, reminding him what he needs to do for the rest of the day. He’s probably figuring out a way to do a 50-50 raffle or a Walkathon for all those up in heaven. And in doing so he is just being the “good Brother.”
Rest in peace, good Brother. Thank you for all you have done for so many. God bless.
– Eulogy delivered by Mr. Joseph Gianuzzi
of Holy Cross High School, Queens, NY
St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY
August 9, 2014
Thanks and Final Impressions by Br. Mark Knightly
On behalf of all of us, and as Bro. Ralph would ALWAYS be careful to do, I would like to express thanks to the many generous and caring people who have expressed their love for Br. Ralph in their own special ways.
First, to Bro. George and to Mr. Joe Gianuzzi, for their expressions this morning.
Welcome and warmth to Ralph’s sister, Joyce, well-known and loved by many of us, Mary Jenn and Ann, her daughters, and family and good friends of Ralph from Pennsylvania and Flushing.
To Sally and Tanya and the exceptional staff at Angel Home Health for your kindness and gentle care of our Brother.
To Patty, Christine, and everyone in the Health Office, Eleanor in Pastoral Care, Linda in Activities, our wonderful cooks, and all the women and men who work here, providing care for our Center residents. Thank you for your extra attention. You help everyone who comes here – even our missionaries from East Africa – to handle life’s challenges in a true home environment.
To Bro. Ed Boyer, who gathers and directs the efforts of all of these people. Using his many gifts, and helped by Sue, his assistant, Ed organizes the details necessary for each Province celebration, funeral, birthday, and social we have here.
To Bro. Renatus, for sharing your gift of music with us, as you have done for most of your life.
To Fr. Bob, a great chaplain, and your gold nuggets of insight at every liturgy, and to our guest celebrant, Fr. Walter Jenkins, President of Ralph’s beloved Holy Cross High in Flushing.
It is especially important to formally recognize, and thank, the members of the community here. Conversing with Ralph at supper, stopping by his room, or just touching him on the shoulder in the hallway, nodding to him as you came into this chapel (he would always plant himself by that door!)
Each of you, by your interactions small and large, gave Ralph the opportunity to meet his illness – and finish his life – in a circle of Brotherly support.
It is what we all hope for.
What are my final impressions of Ralph, this man we have come here to honor? I mean no disrespect – actually, I mean the greatest respect when I say:
I will never think of Ralph without thinking of his great love for simple things:
Wendy’s Jr. bacon cheeseburgers, Ball Park hot dogs, Ocean City, New Jersey, and especially the pecan rolls at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House. Coke…never Pepsi.
Ralph, who could lean into a bar at every Institutional Advancement function and ALWAYS order “Coke. No ice please.”
A man who loved Tastycake products.
A man very close to Jesus.
A follower of St. Joseph.
An ordinary guy.
A beautiful, ordinary guy we are so proud to call Brother.
So most of all, Thank YOU, Ralph. Thank you.
Brother Ralph Joseph Edmiston served the Lord faithfully in the following ministries:
- 1967-1968 Teacher, Holy Cross HS – Flushing, NY
- 1968-1970 Teacher, St. John the Baptist School – Hillsdale, NJ
- 1970-1978 Teacher, Saint Edmond’s Academy – Wilmington, DE
- 1978-1985 Development Director, Saint Edmond’s Academy – Wilmington, DE
- 1985-1993 Development, Alumni Director & Bookstore Holy Cross HS – Flushing, NY
- 1993-1996 Bingo Moderator, Bishop McNamara HS – Forestville, MD
- 1996-1997 Sabbatical – Notre Dame University – Notre Dame, IN
- 1997-2013 Assistant Development Director, Holy Cross HS – Flushing, NY
- 2013-2014 Resident, St. Joseph Center – Valatie, NY