Ralph C. Case 2nd., Edgartown fisherman, shellfisherman and hunter, an employee for 40 years of the Edgartown water department and a proud fireman for 28 years on the Edgartown fire department’s Engine 2, died unexpectedly Nov. 15. He was 62 and was the husband of Kathie Noble Case.
He was born on June 3, 1950, in Fall River, a son of the late Ralph and Hazel (Brown) Case, but was immediately brought back to the Vineyard. It would have been hard to find a better match. The Vineyard ponds, shores and woods lured him to explore them from childhood. His father fished and hunted. His uncle, the late Ed Case, was an Edgartown charter boat captain, eager to acquaint his young nephew with the denizens of the deep. He was a graduate of the Edgartown School and the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, where he played softball. While still in high school, he learned the printing trade after school at the Vineyard Gazette and took to it enthusiastically, working at the Gazette for some years after his graduation from high school.
But lover of the outdoors that he was, he was tempted to join the Edgartown Water Company (later the water department) when an opening occurred. Whatever job he held, however, in his spare time he made sure that he was where the fish were jumping, the scallops waiting to be dip-netted, ducks flying or deer browsing. Fellow hunters remember his ability, even from as far as 200 yards away, to tell whether ducks were black ducks or scoters by the way they flapped their wings. The only fishing he was a trifle hesitant about was ice fishing and he was known among his ice-fishing friends for what they called the Ralphie Shuffle. Somewhat overweight for some years, he would tentatively shuffle out onto the ice of Uncle Seth’s Pond in West Tisbury or Edgartown Great Pond when white and yellow perch and pickerel were being caught through the ice.
Ralph and his longtime friend Paul Schultz made headlines in November 1977 when Paul found a 900-pound bluefin tuna that had died and floated onto South Beach. Paul, Ralph and Cooper Gilkes managed to hoist the tuna from a sand dune into the back of Ralph’s truck and take it into Edgartown. Since it was freshly dead, they cleaned it and were eagerly preparing to send it to Boston to be sold when they learned that they needed tuna tags from the commonwealth before they could sell it. The giant fish ended up being confiscated by the state.
Always eager to be helpful, during the spring trout fishing tournament, Ralph liked to manage the Tangle Table where he would painstakingly and patiently help youngsters untangle their lines. He was also an enthusiastic Little League coach and followed the games of the regional high school girls’ hockey team, on which his god-daughter Kassidy Bettencourt was a player. Although he was a supporter of the Red Sox and the Patriots, Ralph took only infrequent trips off-Island to see them play. He was far too contented with his life on the Vineyard to care a great deal about going off-Island to games. He had too many friends to see and too much fishing and hunting to do right at home.
Ralph had retired some years ago from the Edgartown volunteer fire department (where he always delighted in showing off the equipment to wide-eyed youngsters), but continued his work at the water company until June, when he retired. This fall, he began helping out his friend Cooper Gilkes at Coop’s Bait and Tackle in Edgartown, shucking scallops for him and doing other assorted tasks.
In addition to his love for the Vineyard and his loyalty to his friends, Ralph Case was known for the warm and winning smile he offered to all. He was a member of the Edgartown shellfish committee, the Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club, the Masons, the Order of the Eastern Star and the Colonial Navy of Massachusetts. Listening to music was another of his pastimes and he was renowned for his ability to identify popular tunes he heard on the radio. His mother had always been known for the egg salad sandwiches she made for Ralph and his friends. Ralph’s culinary ability was smoking the bluefish he had caught and sharing it.
He was, one friend said, “Just one of those fantastic people who was well pleased with life and whom nobody ever disliked.”
Another said: “If he had been born a dog, he would surely have been a golden retriever — ever happy and enthusiastic.” (His own choice of dog tended to be a Chesapeake that could also serve as a hunting aide and companion.)
He is survived by his wife of 26 years; by his brother in law and sister in law, Frank and Linda Noble of Somerset; as well as by his nieces, Deborah Bergus and Cheryl John; his nephew Doug Noble and his wife, Lori; several cousins, Avis Sue Miller and her husband Jerry, Nancy Trembly and her husband Everett, Cynthia Laurant and her husband Sonny, and Kenneth and Michelle Brown; by his niece Amanda Brown and countless great nieces and nephews.
Calling hours will be today from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home in Oak Bluffs. The funeral service will be tomorrow at 11 a.m. at the Federated Church in Edgartown, with interment at the New Westside Cemetery. A celebration of his life will follow at the Edgartown fire station.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Edgartown Firemen’s Association, P.O. Box 737, Edgartown, MA 02539.