American Veteran 04
Official Obituary of

Kenneth N. Ratcliff

August 5, 1937 ~ March 4, 2024 (age 86) 86 Years Old
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Kenneth Ratcliff Obituary

Kenneth Norbert Ratcliff upgraded to the Great Hunting Lodge in the Sky on March 4, 2024. He leaves behind his daughter Kimberly Ratcliff (Ben Edwards), son Kirk Ratcliff (Christie), sister Kathy Ratcliff, and brothers Royce (Lillian), Noland, and Don (Brenda) Ratcliff, along with four biological grandchildren (Katie, Brendyn, Joshua, and Lennox), two adopted grandchildren (Kevin Reynolds and Alexis Rogers), and one adopted great-grandchild (Ariel Rogers). Preceded in death by his parents Howard and Ethel (Brown), sisters June and Lois, and brother Arnold.

Born on August 5, 1937, at his family home in Richmond Dale, Ohio, Kenneth lived each and every one of his nine lives to the nth degree—with a strong priority for adventure from the very start. When he turned five, he so wanted to possess a fireman’s hat that he set fire to the chicken coop at his family home in Groveport. He was very proud to have a grandson (Brendyn) who became a fireman years later.

Kenneth and his four brothers enjoyed all the benefits of growing up outdoors. They fished and hunted ducks and deer throughout their childhood into adulthood. They enjoyed what today would be called “free-range parenting” and kept themselves occupied with antics such as pulling a fiberglass canoe behind a Jeep through a snow-covered cornfield. An experiment in centrifugal force was initiated by hitching the tricycle of their youngest brother, Royce, to a chain attached to the pole in the middle of their basement and testing how fast it might go with the little boy holding on for his life. Another brotherly endeavor involved street racing with a 1962 Corvette and two 1955 Chevy’s.

Kenneth’s fishing interests in Alum Creek kept him from the kindergarten classroom and resulted in him needing to repeat school that year. He created mischief in many classrooms after that. By his own admission, Kenneth was not a favorite of most of his teachers. His mother Ethel wrote many book reports for him due to his known lack of interest. His time in school was more focused on practical jokes, such as using a whoopie cushion over the school loudspeaker during announcements. He was a prime example of the public school system’s ability to keep the interest of active young men through shop classes, graduating from South High School with his future wife Karen Foltz in 1956. Inscribed in his yearbook are many notes from classmates on how “swell” he was.

Safety was not always top-of-mind during Kenneth’s younger years. He was anaccomplished high diver, water skier, and canoer. Notable incidents include breaking a rib after being ejected from a speed boat and being retrieved by the Coast Guard from a tipped canoe during a cold November day while duck hunting on Buckeye Lake (one month before the birth of his daughter). This recovery came thanks to a member of the Wolfe family spotting Kenneth and his friend Cletus in the lake. They enjoyed sitting in front of the fireplace and drinking brandy on Wolfe Island afterwards. Kenneth’s risk-taking was (mostly) curtailed after the birth of his two children and thanks to the steady guidance of his wife, Karen.

His professional accomplishments included working his way up from an apprentice to union president of Local 44, part of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers. Looking at dozens of power plants, factories, and skyscrapers across the state of Ohio and beyond, a few notable examples that his hands and brain power built include the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant (where he once saw the Edmund Fitzgerald set sail from the stack), the Rhodes Building (where he and his friends launched balsawood planes from the roof), the Huntington Building, Nestlé Factory, Meade Paper Plant, and Newark Steel Plant (where he barely escaped a fire after being caught in an elevator). While working on insulation in the process of constructing the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado, there were no places to stay so he was fortunate to spend several months in the world-famous Broadmoor Resort, a luxury quite unusual for him. He considered having a son, grandson and granddaughter in unions an important and logical extension of his dedication to organized labor. They all know the secret handshake. Those who were close with Ken will recall the detailed memory that helped him to recall the hundreds of jobs he worked on: every date, every co-worker, every product, and every contractor. This equipped him to testify as an expert witness at many trials to obtain compensation for the widows of his coworkers who died from asbestosis.

Kenneth was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, serving as a flight mechanic at Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois and Homestead Air Force Base in Florida. He was sent to the latter location during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. One of his favorite memories from his time serving included visits to jazz clubs in Chicago and Kansas City to hear John Coltrane and Duke Ellington play live. He adored jazz music.

Kenneth had a tremendous respect for aviators and Ohio’s history of flight. His favorite hero was U.S. Marine Colonel and Senator John Glenn, and he was thrilled to once meet him in person. He was also proud to have a grandson in the U.S. Marines. What he learned in the way of discipline and mechanics served him well through his later years. His bed was always impeccably made, and he worked on reconstructing and caring for various automobiles including a CJ-4 Jeep and a wide variety of boats.

After his retirement, Kenneth entered his “Old Ranger” phase, spending hours walking in farm fields looking for overturned Indian relics such as arrowheads and tools. He mostly replaced earlier animal hunting interests with this pastime and became an active member of the Flint Ridge Chapter of the Ohio Archaeological Society. He read voraciously about American Indian history and became an informal scholar on the topic understanding every aspect of the culture, timeline, tools and weapons of indigenous Ohio people in particular.

During his retirement, he also enjoyed getting into conversations with people about politics, baiting unsuspecting individuals with his “Quiz” that asked: “What has every president since 1900 done for real people like you and me?” He always knew more about each president than his unfortunate respondents, who always greatly underestimated his capabilities. If debate clubs existed for retirees, he would have been a winning member.

In 2015, Kenneth miraculously survived a massive heart attack. After a quadruple bypass, coding 20 times, and being intubated for a week, he of course bounced back in great form with a new lease on life for years to come.

He was a devoted husband to his wife Karen, caring for her over the years during extended periods of poor health. He always wanted her to be happy despite her challenges. His aerobic fitness in his 80s benefited from his many trips up and down the stairs of their condo trying to tempt her to eat various snacks during her last year of life. Kenneth was also an amazing father to his two children, providing them with endless stories about his adventures and inspiration for their own ambitions and interests in life. As a larger-than-life personality, he was a bit of a superhero to both Kimberly and Kirk, whom he called “The Twins.”

Kenneth will be remembered, and he will be missed by his family, as a person who wanted to be outdoors at all times and do things his own way, every day. He lived all of his 86 years knowing exactly what was right and wrong, and making sure everyone else did, too. He was a true original and surely the most intellectual, blue-collar, dyed-in-the-wool Democrat you could ever meet.

The family invites anyone who remembers Ken or wishes to support his family to join us for a memorial service on Friday, March 22, 2024, 1:30 p.m., at Cotner Funeral Home, 7369 East Main Street, Reynoldsburg, Ohio, followed by burial with military honors at Silent Home Cemetery right around the corner. In lieu of flowers, please send a donation to U.S. Vets, an organization that cares for the mental health, workforce, and housing needs of American veterans.


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Memorial Service
March 22, 2024

1:30 PM
Cotner Funeral Home
7369 E. Main Street
Reynoldsburg, OH 43068


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