Raphael "Ralph" Gilbert DeDecker, 77, of Mount Horeb and Door County, WI, passed late Wednesday afternoon, September 6, 2023 with family and his beloved dog, Liberty "Libby", by his side.
He was born on February 2, 1946 on his grandparents' (Harvey Jeanquart family) homestead in Namur, WI, the son of Elmer Joseph DeDecker and Florence Emma (Jeanquart) DeDecker. Ralph grew up attending Fairland School and St. Mary of the Snow Catholic Church, both in Namur. He attended Brussels High School for two years and Southern Door High School (after it was built) for his final two years, class of 1964. Ralph went on to study meteorological engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned his degree in 1968. After completing his Bachelor of Science, he continued studying Computer Science. Ralph had an incredible mind and passion for education. His love for learning, discovering, and challenging himself, both, physically and mentally, continued throughout his life.
Ralph met his forever, Paulette Arlene Laack, in Door County where she visited during the summers. They were united in marriage on May 11, 1968 at St. Paul University Catholic Center on (the UW) campus.
Ralph remained at Madison after the completion of his studies, working for the University, NOAA and NASA ER-2 Aircraft Project as an Atmospheric Research Scientist, investigating climate change and global warming. His work brought him around the world from Australia, China, the Arctic, and far too many to list.
Ralph and Paulette lived in Madison until 2006 when they built their home on the prairie in the Mount Horeb area. His work travel did not satiate his desire to travel and discover all corners of this planet. African safaris to BMW purchaser programs on the autobahn and well beyond. Ralph and Paulette explored the world-wide.
He was a devout Catholic and attended Mass wherever he was living or visiting. Ralph was an avid and extreme outdoorsman. He belonged to the Hoofers Outing Club through the UW. He was an ardent fly fisherman and enjoyed trips to Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Labrador to name a few. Ralph loved whitewater kayaking/racing as well as sea kayaking in extreme remote locations that were once documented by National Geographic. He earned the nickname of "Snowman" through his passion of skiing. Jackson Hole, WY was where Ralph spent as much wintertime as possible for decades. He earned his pilot's license and had a 1980 Mooney which he used to fly back and forth to Madison and Door County, as well as more exotic locations. He and Paulette attended several EAA events in Oshkosh over the years as he parlayed his knowledge of aviation, meteorology, and computer science into a flight planning program. During the last two decades of his life, Ralph adored time spent with his wife and beloved Golden Retriever dogs hunting for upland birds.
He will be missed by his dear wife, Paulette, with whom he was blessed to share over 55 years of marriage; daughter, Bobette "B" Jane (Timothy) Cross of Mequon; grandchildren, Ryann and Declan Cross; mother, Florence DeDecker of Sturgeon Bay; sister, Kay (James Abeyta) DeDecker of Sturgeon Bay; nephews and nieces, Dylan Abeyta, Marielle (Eric) Solis, Gracee Abeyta, and Abram Abeyta; and many relatives and friends.
Ralph was preceded in death by his father; and brother, Michael DeDecker.
His life will be celebrated from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 23, 2023 at the Belgian Heritage Center in Namur, 1255 County Road DK, Brussels, WI 54204 with a prayer service to be held at 1:00 p.m. and led by Fr. Rommel Rodriguez Dacoco “Fr. Dox”.
Huehns Funeral Home, Inc. & Door County Crematory LLC in Sturgeon Bay are assisting the DeDecker family. Expressions of sympathy, memories, and photos of Ralph may be shared with his family through his tribute page at www.huehnsfuneralhome.com.