Date of Birth
Date of Death
Ralph Eugene Conley, age 90, of Batavia, IL, formerly of Geneva and West Chicago, passed away peacefully Monday, October 19, 2015, at Michaelsen Health Center, Batavia, surrounded by a loving family who kept constant vigil with him.
He was born September 18, 1925, in Elburn, Illinois the son of Burdette Hale and Carrie Louise (Sharp) Conley. He was such a “little guy” that his dad tagged him with the nickname “Skeeter” which stuck with him all of his life. Ralph grew up in the family home on Pierce St. attending local schools and graduating from Elburn High School with the class of 1943 where he played basketball. The Conleys loved music and like his brother, Ralph played the saxophone both in the band at school and around the piano at home where young people gathered to “jam”. The Conley house was often a gathering place for young people. In the family business, Conley Funeral Home, Ralph learned early how to move furniture, carry chairs, park cars and drive the hearse. But, perhaps the most important lessons he learned were that of caring for others, serving oneâ€™s community, the importance of family, and dedication to oneâ€™s calling.
In 1941, Ralphâ€™s older brother Chuck married Winifred McMurray. When the McMurray family arrived from Nebraska, Ralph met Winifredâ€™s younger sister, Ferne for the first time. It wasnâ€™t love at first sight but there must have been a spark between those two teenagers because by June of 1945 they were dating and on December 22, 1945 they were united in marriage in Chuck and Winifredâ€™s living room.
Ralph was attending the University of Illinois School of Pharmacy in Chicago when he and Ferne were married. He rode on the “third rail” from Batavia to Chicago to attend classes. The newlyweds made their home in the little third floor apartment in the senior Conleyâ€™s home (no bathroom or kitchen they shared those with the rest of the family). Ralph graduated with his Degree in Pharmacy in 1948.
He served his apprenticeship at the Hoffmann-Gliddon Drug Store in Elburn and completed his training at the Rachielle Drug Store in Batavia. His first job, after he received his license, was in the pharmacy at the DeKalb Clinic and the young couple made their home in Sycamore. In 1950, they were blessed with the birth of their daughter, Pamela Gail and a year later in September of 1951, their son, Philip Charles arrived.
Ralphâ€™s caring and friendly nature fit perfectly into this profession which brought daily contact with countless people. Following his time in DeKalb he went to work at Wayneâ€™s Drug Store on State St. in Geneva. Then in 1956, he was employed at Johnsonâ€™s Drugs in Batavia and part time at Vanâ€™s Drug Store in Elgin. As his job changed, so did their address when he and Ferne moved from Sycamore to Geneva where their second son, Roger Earl was born in 1958. In 1960, Ralph purchased the Cevella Drug Store in West Chicago and he proudly put Conley Pharmacy above the front door. The family moved to West Chicago where all three of the children grew up. Ralph was an active part of the community and served his customers for nearly 26 years until the Conley Pharmacy doors closed in November of 1985. During those years, Ralph genuinely cared for his customers not only waiting on them during store hours but going in and filling prescriptions and delivering them after hours. Those who came to work for Ralph found much more than just an employer. He was a mentor to the young and everyone became a part of the family. After he closed Conley Pharmacy, he worked for a time at the Jewel Osco in West Chicago and then for a number of years at Colonial Drugs in Plano.
In the early 1980â€™s, Ralph and Ferne moved to James St. in Geneva. Ralph put aside his white coat and retired in 1990. In June of 2009, they sold their home and became residents of Holmstad in Batavia where Ralph immediately became reacquainted with old friends and made countless new ones.
He was a devoted husband, father, grandfather and great-grandpa. But, his love and interest went beyond his family to include his nieces, nephews, great and great-great nieces and nephews. He was always ready to listen to the stories, support the projects and share a hug with his “kids”, no matter how old they got. And, they loved him in return. Hundreds of pictures, slides and old films were converted into cdâ€™s and dvdâ€™s so that the younger generations could learn about their history. The internet and his email became his window to the world and he kept in touch with countless family, friends and classmates. He loved music, ice cream, the Cubs, his coffee and apple pie with a side of Cheddar cheese. The last of his generation, those who loved him will miss his smile and his laugh, the pet names that he gave each of them, and the quiet strength he provided. By example, Ralph leaves a rich legacy of memories and stories that will be shared with the generations to come.
He was a member of the Boys Club of Geneva, Blackberry Masonic Lodge #359 AF&AM, Elburn, and a former member of the West Chicago Rotary. In 1973, the city of West Chicago awarded Ralph the honor of “Citizen of the Year” for his contributions and dedication to the community.
Ralph is survived by Ferne, his wife of nearly 70 years; three children: Pamela Kautz of Iowa City, IA, Philip (Melissa “Missy”) Conley of St. Charles, and Roger (Debora “Debbie”) Conley of Geneva, IL; five grandchildren: Sandra (Richard) Echternacht, Robert Kautz, Ryan Conley, Kelli (John) Evans and Gavin (Christina) Hayes; four great-grandchildren: Connor & Ethan Echternacht and Jordan & Eli Hayes; 6 nieces and nephews: Karen (Leslie) Howard, Dianne (Dr. Richard) Londo, Ladora (Larry) Eberle, Page (Carol) McCloud, Alan (Nancy) McCloud, and James (Jane) McCloud; a number of great-nieces and nephews: many cousins; and a lifetime of friends all who will remember his smile and his devotion to all who loved him.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Burdette and Carrie Conley, his son-in-law, Richard Kautz; one great-grandson, Noah Echternacht; his siblings and their spouses, Charles (Winifred) Conley and Eloise (Harold) Vance; one sister and brother-in-law, Ruth (George) McCloud; and his nephew, Bruce H. Conley
Visitation will be from 4-7 p.m., Friday, October 23, 2015 at Conley Funeral Home, 116 W. Pierce St., Elburn, IL. A funeral to celebrate his life will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday, October 24th, also at the funeral home, with an hour of visitation from 10-11 a.m. Private family interment will follow cremation at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, a memorial has been established. Checks may be made to the Holmstad Benevolent Fund, 700 W. Fabyan Pkwy., Batavia, IL 60510. If you wish to send tributes and to read his full life story, please visit www.conleycare.com and on the Conley Funeral Home Facebook Page.
A funeral to celebrate his life will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday, October 24th, also at the funeral home, with an hour of visitation from 10-11 a.m.
Visitation will be from 4-7 p.m., Friday, October 23, 2015 at Conley Funeral Home, 116 W. Pierce St., Elburn, IL.
Private family interment will follow cremation at a later date.