Frequent valley visitor Ralph Thomas Waldrop Sr. died Feb. 24 in Mayfield, Kentucky. He was 100. The following was provided by his family.
Mr. Waldrop was born June 7, 1922, near Mayfield. As boy growing up during the Great Depression, he worked many jobs, including as a newspaper boy for the Louisville Courier-Journal and as a caddy at Mayfield Golf and Country.
In 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mr. Waldrop, 19, enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and was called up for officer training in April 1943. He was sent to Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama, for qualifying tests to become a pilot, and in May 1944 he was stationed with the 340th Bomb Group 444th Squadron on the island of Sardinia off the coast of Italy as the pilot of a B-26 Martin Marauder bomber.
He flew 64 bombing missions over Italy, France and Germany and volunteered to fly a C-47 cargo plane for 52 supply missions to General Patton’s 3rd Army on the front lines of the Battle of the Bulge. He flew one of the first planes into Germany after the end of World War II to assist in the liberation of Nazi concentration camps. He eventually achieved the rank of captain. The 340th Bomb Group was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation, and the French awarded his bombing group the Croix de Guerre, the first such citation made to an American unit in WWII.
His personal awards were Air Medal with 8 Oak Clusters; Campaign Medals, Northern Apennines; Po Valley; Southern France; Ardennes-Alsace; Rhineland; Central Europe; the Victory Medal, and he was inducted into France’s National Order of the Legion of Honor as a Chevalier for his service in WWII.
Mr. Waldrop attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., before the war and was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. After the war he attended the University of Virginia at Charlottesville and graduated from Murray State University, where he met and, in 1950, married the love of his life, Mary Julia Moore Waldrop, a fellow graduate of Murray State.
With his father, H.C. Waldrop, he founded Waldrop & Waldrop Real Estate, where for more than 60 years he was a successful Realtor and MAI appraiser.
He served as president of the Kentucky Association of Realtors in 1967, was named Kentucky Realtor of the Year in 1968 and, in 1988, was elected president of the Kentucky Chapter of the Appraisal Institute. He was a founder of the Mayfield/Graves County Board of Realtors and served as president many times, as well as president of the Graves County Chamber of Commerce in 1965.
He was an active member of the Boy Scouts of America Four Rivers Council board of directors, where he was awarded the rank of Silver Beaver, one of Scouting’s highest awards for volunteers.
Mr. Waldrop was a lifelong member of the First United Methodist Church in Mayfield where he was active as a Sunday school teacher and a beloved song leader for many years. All his life, but especially in his last days, he loved to sing “Beulah Land” with anyone who would sing with him. Mr. Waldrop loved the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs and attended the Run for the Roses many times over the last 80 years.
Mr. Waldrop is survived by five children — H. Gregory (Nancy) Waldrop, of Cadiz, Kentucky; R. Thomas Waldrop Jr., of Mayfield, Kentucky; Alex (Jayne) Waldrop, of Lexington, Kentucky; Julie Waldrop (Michael) Muscarella, of Paducah, Kentucky; and Jim Waldrop (Charlotte Reynolds), of Jackson. He is also survived by seven grandchildren — Dr. Greer Waldrop, of New York City, Dr. Anne Waldrop (Ahna Olson), of San Francisco; Clarke Waldrop, of Mayfield; Alex Waldrop Jr. (Ally Scatterday), of Durham, North Carolina; Dr. Miriam Muscarella (Steven Press), of Palo Alto, California; John Waldrop, of Lexington; and Lucy Waldrop, of Jackson — one great-grandchild, Penelope Press, of Palo Alto; his sister Ruth Helen Williams, of Paducah; and beloved nieces and nephews.
Mr. Waldrop was preceded in death by his wife of 45 years, Mary Julia, in 1995; his parents, H.C. and Lexye Belle Waldrop; sisters Vivian Reed, Jeanette Street and Wille Belle Farless; and daughter-in-law LaVerne Mitchell Waldrop.
The family wishes to thank the many caregivers who helped Mr. Waldrop so wonderfully in the last years of his life as well as the staff at the Veterans Administration in Mayfield, including his primary care provider, Lynn Bushor.
Services were held in Kentucky.
In lieu of flowers or other gifts, the family asks that any gifts be made to the Murray State University Foundation, Waldrop Scholarship, at 200 Heritage Hall, Murray, KY 42071, or First United Methodist Church, Mayfield, KY, P.O. Box 766, Mayfield, KY 42066.
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