Ralph Aiken Evans


Feb. 2, 1924 – June 22, 2013

Ralph Aiken Evans died peacefully in his sleep at University Retirement Community in Davis on June 22, 2013.

Born in Oak Park, Ill., Ralph was the fourth of five children. He was raised in East Orange, N.J. He had fond memories of his close family.

The family grew up in the depression. Ralph remembered with affection all of the kids in the back seat of the car returning to Norwich, N.Y. to work on the extended family’s farms every summer, and similarly, driving across New Jersey on weekends helping his father set up food buying clubs and co-op stores. Ralph later became the President of the board of the Berkeley Co-op Credit Union in Berkeley.

Ralph received a full scholarship and a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics in 1944, and membership in Phi Beta Kappa from Lehigh University, Pennsylvania. He received a Ph.D. in physics in 1954 and membership in Sigma Xi from UC Berkeley. From 1944 to 1946 he worked at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., as a radio engineer, and then went back to school. He was an ensign in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1945.

1n 1945, he married his high school sweetheart, Audrey Smith (now Audrey Lippman of Davis) at the Arlington Presbyterian Church of East Orange, N.J., where they had met in the young people’s group. They drove across country to their new home in Berkeley. They had two children, Paul Aiken Evans (now deceased) and Ann Mary Evans.

In 1954, Ralph moved to the Midwest where he worked for Link-Belt Company, as the Director of the Research Laboratory. In 1961, he moved to North Carolina’s new Research Triangle Park as a senior physicist for the Research Triangle Institute.

In 1968, he married Catherine Martin Wynne (now deceased) at the First Presbyterian Church in Durham, N.C. Catherine had two adult children, Vic Wynne and Mary Wynne (now deceased).

In 1972 he became a product assurance consultant (Evans & Associates) and editor. He was a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Managing Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Reliability. He was a fellow of  the American Society for Quality Control and the Founding Editor of the ASQC Reliability Review. He was on the management committee of the ASQC Symposium from 1965 until his retirement and enjoyed the work and his colleagues on the management committee very much.

In 1984 he received an IEEE Centennial Medal. In 1988 he received the Allen Chop Technical Achievement Award from the ASQC Reliability Division, and the 1987 Annual Reliability Award from the IEEE Reliability Society. In 1989 he received the initial ASQC Electronics Division Ralph A. Evans Award.

Always one to emphasize the real world, as he called it, he was well known in his profession for beginning his tutorials with the question, “how many of you have ever hit your thumb with a hammer?” An avid home repairer, whether electrical, construction or plumbing, he had done so many times, feeling there was no substitute for real-world learning.

In 2009, Ralph moved into the memory care unit of Croasdaile Village in Durham, where his stepdaughter Mary Wynne also looked after him. In 2012, he moved to the University Retirement Community Memory Care in Davis.

He is survived in Davis by his daughter Ann M. Evans and son-in-law David J. Thompson; his granddaughter Hatley Thompson (Birmingham, Ala.); his brother-in-law Dwight “Bud” Smith; his cousin Arleta West; numerous nieces and nephews across the country; and his first wife, Audrey Lippman. In North Carolina, his stepson Victor Wynne; granddaughter Sarah Wynne of Clayton; other grandchildren and great grandchildren; and numerous nephews and nieces in the region survive him. He was predeceased by his father Durward Randall Evans (Norwich, N.Y.), mother? Hazel Agnes Aiken (Warrensberg, Mo.); and his four sisters.

The family would like to thank the the staff at the University Retirement Community and Yolo Hospice, as well as that of the Croasdaile Village in Durham, N.C. Private graveside services will be held at the Davis Cemetery and at the Riverside Cemetery in Smithfield, N.C.

His wonderful, gentle spirit, and sense of humor will be missed. He was a fair and kind man with egalitarian values and well loved by his family. He enjoyed being precise in language as well as life. His favorite phrases, which he used in his editorials and repeated, despite suffering from Alzheimer’s, to the day he died, included, “If you have to choose between luck and skill, choose luck every time; “Life can get complicated at times;” and “100 years from now, no one will know nor care.”

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be made to Lehigh University for the Ralph A. Evans, Class of 1944, Endowed Scholarship Fund. Payments may be sent to the Lehigh University Development Office, 27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015 Attn: Mrs. Elizabeth Posivak.

Special to The Enterprise

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