Ralph was born in Almira, Washington, to Nicholas and Anna Nansen, the fifth of seven siblings. He graduated from Washington State University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.
Ralph spent his career with Boeing in the Aerospace division. Early in his career, he designed the Saturn V rocket, which was the first stage of the Apollo moon launches. His design won Boeing the NASA contract to send men to the moon. As the Apollo program ended, Ralph continued to design and manage advancements in aerospace technology, becoming a world-recognized authority on Solar Power Satellites and authoring two books on the subject.
Ralph met the love of his life in grade school and married Phyllis Moser in 1951. He is survived by Phyllis, their three children and their spouses, all currently living on Lopez Island: David Nansen (Sheri), Lynn Dale (Mark), and Lisa Cram (Doug); four grandchildren: Nicholas Nansen, Kelly Small (Victor), Dana Cram, and Derek Cram; and great-grandson, Zolton Small.
Ralph loved to travel and covered most of the globe traveling for business and pleasure, often with Phyllis at his side. He stood on seven continents and sailed countless ocean miles on Fram, the boat he built in their backyard. Ralph and Phyllis shared their sailing adventures in the book Stone Boat Odyssey. Ralph was a skilled cabinet maker and found time to create works of art as well as furniture. Their Lopez home abounds with examples of his creative and skilled hands.
When Ralph and Phyllis moved to Lopez in 2002, Ralph was elected to the board at LCCA and served two terms. He also was president of The Lutheran Church in the San Juan Islands for two terms.
Rest in peace, beloved husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and friend.
A celebration of life on Saturday, Sept. 29, 4 p.m., at Center Church, Lopez Island. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to Lopez Island Hospice and Home Support.