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Ralph Collins Elder
August 26, 1932 ~ July 14, 2023 (age 90) 90 Years Old
Ralph Collins Elder, Captain, USN, RET., passed away at INOVA hospital in Falls Church on July 14, 2023. Ralph’s passing was sudden and without a lingering illness, which is how he wanted it to be. Active until his final moments, Ralph still enjoyed golf, meeting for meals and drinks with his friends, collecting all things golf, and continuing his journey as a lifelong learner. He was a kind, compassionate, funny and caring man. He will be greatly missed by his son David and his wife Trina and their daughter Hannah, his daughter Lorraine and her wife Cindy and son Cameron, and his daughter-in-law Yvette and her children Amber and Logan. He is also survived by his younger brother Stephen Buell Elder Jr., of Fort Collins, Colorado. Ralph was predeceased in death by his loving wife Karen Freebairn Elder, and his son Daniel Elder.
Ralph was born in Linden New Jersey on August 26, 1932, the son of Stephen B. Elder and Dana Collins Elder who also predeceased him in death. He attended public schools in New Jersey, and upon graduation entered the U.S. Naval Academy on a Congressional Appointment. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1954 with a commission as an intelligence specialist.
Ralph spend 29 years on active duty, retiring in 1983 at the rank of Captain. As a Lieutenant, Officer in Charge of the Naval Investigation Office (now called NCIS), Newport, RI, his tour of duty was highlighted by two things: meeting his future bride, Lieutenant Junior Grade Karen Elder, USN, and investigating the Soviet spy Nelson Drumond. As a Lieutenant Commander, Admiralty Liaison Officer, London, he was involved in the now highly romanticized Hunt for Red October. Ralph also served at the Pentagon, and was deployed to Hawaii twice and Japan once. Ralph received many honors and commendations, including the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal (twice awarded) and the National Defense Service Medal (twice awarded). While in service, Ralph also received his Master’s Degree in International Relations from George Washington University, and attended the School of Naval Command and Staff and the School of Naval Warfare at the Naval War College. Upon his retirement from the Navy, Ralph worked as a Senior Analyst at JAYCOR in Alexandria where one of his duties was to coordinate and ensure continuity of government operations.
As an avid golfer and collector, Ralph and his wife Karen amassed a renowned golf book collection, while also dabbling in ephemera and literally all things golf. He will be missed by his golf friends and neighbors alike.
At a later date, Ralph’s life will honored with a memorial service and the internment of his human remains at Arlington National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his honor to Links to Freedom (adaptive golf) or The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society - National Capital Area.