This column is one I felt I really needed to write.
I meet a lot of people in my job as a writer for The Tribune. Sometimes when I’m asked to write a story I get really excited and say to myself, “This would be a good story.” Others times I just write down what they suggested and say it could possibly become a story in the future.
A few weeks later, he called and left me a voice mail saying he still wanted me to do his story. But sadly he died before I could write the story he wanted me to tell.
I have to say I have tried to tell as many stories as I could for people really wanting one. Most of the time, they are around to read them, but in Ralph’s case this will be written as a tribute.
I had known the 63-year-old Ralph all my life and he was always a good person. All of us who grew up on The Lake like him knew he had something wrong with his leg but no one ever really paid much attention to it because Ralph was so cool with everyone. Whatever he had, I never knew and never bothered to ask.
When I heard he died my friend Marie Lindsay and I were talking about him and we remembered when Ralph had a paper route.
She said, “I would see him walking around delivering the newspaper every day. He was a true example of you can’t let any kind of handicap get you down. He was a inspiration.”
Now to the story he wanted to tell. Ralph regarded himself as a self- made man. He attended the E.M. Morris School for Crippled Children (now Tippecanoe Place), Washington High School and he later got his GED. Ralph told me he worked at various places but was interested in business and taxes.
He told me he was very much touched by the story he heard at school as a young boy about Morris, the local entrepreneur, and how the man’s wife helped him start his first business with a loan.
In 1941, the late E.M. Morris, was a South Bend businessman who founded First Bank & Trust and Associates Investment Co., purchased the property for $20,000 and bequeathed the asset to the South Bend Board of Education to be used as a School for the Handicapped.
Ralph told me his wife had helped him start his business with a loan of $200. In 1989, he was able to start Universal Holy Family Professional Tax Technicians. The business was something he was clearly proud of because it helped people. Universal Holy Family is a tax and accounting business. Some of his family members still work there.
He was also a man of God who knew so well from whence came his help. He told me, “May Lee, whatever you want, go get it but keep the Lord first, and you can’t go wrong.”
I will never be able to tell Ralph I did finally write his story because it is too late, but his children, family, and all his friends will be able to read and remember him fondly.
Here is a song that I think speaks to the life of Ralph H. Miles Sr.:
May the works I’ve done speak for me.
May the works (I’ve done) speak for me.
When I’m resting in my grave,
There’s nothing more to be said;