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Ralph C. Bain, 94, led Central Maryland chapter of Red Cross


Ralph C. Bain, a disaster relief expert and former head of Central Maryland's American Red Cross chapter, died of pneumonia Monday at Oak Crest Village in Parkville. He was 94.

Born in Little Rock and raised in Bentonville, Ark., he earned a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Arkansas in 1931. While doing postgraduate studies at Columbia University's Graduate School of Social Work, he went to work for the New York state welfare department.

Mr. Bain began his 36-year career with the Red Cross in 1937 as a relief worker, assisting people who were displaced by the great floods that swept through the Midwest that year. In 1939, he was promoted to deputy director of disaster services for the Midwestern area.

With the outbreak of World War II, Mr. Bain's first overseas assignment came in 1940 when he was sent to accompany the first mercy ship carrying more than $1 million worth of Red Cross relief supplies for France. When the country fell, he moved his headquarters to Paris, which was then occupied by the German Army, and then was reassigned to Lisbon, Portugal, where he aided in the repatriation of American citizens.

In 1941, he moved to Cairo and headed Middle East operations for the Red Cross, and was responsible for the large-scale distribution of civilian relief supplies as well as all Red Cross services for U.S. armed forces in the area.

"While in Cairo, a highlight of his time there was a personal face-to-face visit with [Ethiopia's emperor] Haile Selassie regarding relief efforts," said a son, Richard C. Bain of Houston.

Named deputy director of the American National Red Cross civilian war relief in Western Europe in 1944, Mr. Bain moved to London. He was also assigned to the staff of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, helping refugees, displaced people and concentration camp victims.

"Following the D-Day allied invasion, he flew to Paris on the second day of the liberation to coordinate Red Cross relief activities. He set up headquarters in a building that had been formerly occupied by the Nazis and because they left so quickly in the night, he found Nazi flags, stationery and other material," the son said.

In the spring of 1945, after the successful invasion of Germany by Allied forces, Mr. Bain was sent to Berlin.

"He was a witness to the horrors of the concentration camps and worked supplying doctors and medical supplies to help treat the victims," the son said.

After the war, he headed a similar relief effort in Scandinavian countries.

"In some areas, the Nazi Army had imposed a scorched-earth policy. He recalled visiting the town of Rovaniemi, Finland, in 1946, and said, 'Not a single building remained standing in this town, which once had a population of 10,000. Yet people were struggling to rebuild from debris and logs - and almost without nails,'" the son said.

For his war relief efforts, he was recognized by the governments and Red Cross societies of Finland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and France.

In 1947, Mr. Bain married Alice Strand, a Red Cross worker he had met in Paris. That year, he also returned to Washington and was the organization's director of disaster services for the Eastern area until being named to head the Baltimore chapter in 1951.

After retiring in 1973, he headed a team of Red Cross disaster experts sent to Bangladesh, where he helped coordinate emergency disaster preparedness strategies.

"He was an expert in disaster relief and was able to persuade people to get the work done that needed to be done," said George B. Hankins, who retired as chapter chairman in 1980. "He was dedicated to helping people and represented the best of the Red Cross spirit."

The Bains lived on Alabama Road in Towson for many years before moving to the retirement community in 1997.

Mrs. Bain died last year.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Towson Presbyterian Church, 400 W. Chesapeake Ave., where Mr. Bain was a member.

In addition to his son, Mr. Bain is survived by another son, Thomas E. Bain of San Antonio, and five grandchildren.

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