RI Theme "Keep Rotary Simple"


Ralph Bartholomew was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1898, and first saw Ketchikan, Alaska, on May 1, 1915, where he arrived as a member of the crew of the cannery tender, Chacon. In the years before his service in the U.S. Navy during WWI, he worked in Ketchikan as a pile driver, on fish trap construction, cannery operator, wharf worker and with the Wells Fargo Express

Ralph's close friendship with Warren Kraft of Seattle started in the Navy. They were torpedoed together off France and spent five days in a lifeboat before landing in Brest. Both were wireless operators and both had asked to be transferred to the war zone from their stations in and out of Bremerton.

After the war Ralph returned to his old job at Hickman Wharf and on July 4th became manager when the agent took off with the cash and traveler checks. Before business settled down he again pursued other work; but by 1922 volume had increased enough for him to marry Laura McLeod who had also arrived in Alaska in 1915. In 1925 the firm of Spaeth and Bartholomew was formed to start the first travel agency and credit bureau. In 1930 they purchased the Ireland Transfer Company, which has been the Bartholomew family business ever since, now being operated by Ralph M. (Jr.) and Leslie Bartholomew, who them¬selves are outstanding Rotarians. Ralph A, known as Ralph Sr., retired in 1963 and traveled extensively with his wife. He died in San Diego in 1976.


His civic services as a Ketchikan leader were many: American Legion Commander; President Chamber of Commerce; Officer, Fire Department; member, City Planning Commission; Acting Mayor and member, City Charter Commission. He especially appreciated the honor of representing Alaska on the Freedom Train through Germany and Austria, distributing food, clothing and other supplies to those war torn countries.


In 1956 old Rotary District 151, said to have been the largest in R.I. in size, clubs, and members, was divided. Warren Kraft, who later became first Vice President of R.I., was made Governor of the new District 152, and Ralph Bartholomew Governor of the smaller District 151. During his year the Kitimat Club was formed. His sons concur that the governorship, the first for an Alaskan, was the highlight of Ralph, Sr's life.