Former East Butler mayor, veteran lived ‘life to the fullest’
While friends gathered Tuesday, Nov. 21, to honor the life of Ralph “Dick” Richard Day, who died Saturday at age 100, his family remembered him as someone who lived “life to the fullest.”
“He was someone who didn’t spend a lot of time looking back,” said Staci Kelly, his granddaughter. “He just always looked forward, and he kind of preached that to all of us a lot after he lost my grandmother.”
Day died Saturday at Concordia Lutheran Ministries at Cabot. He was preceded in death by his wife, Dorothy May Day, who died six years ago.
“They were together for a really long time,” Kelly said. “I think that’s kind of how he lived the back-half of his life: Be happy with what happened in the past but just keep looking forward.”
Born July 16, 1923, into a family of six girls and five boys, according to his sister Joyce Collier, Day “saw a lot of changes in his life.”
And at the age of 18, she said he was drafted into the United States Army.
“It was a scary time for the family, as it was World War II,” Collier said.
Kelly said her grandfather was proud of his service, and he often said it “really formed who he was when he came back.”
“I think he had a better appreciation for his family and the small town and just working hard,” she said.
Day told his family he had experienced “some scary situations,” according to Kelly, but did not go into further detail.
However, she said he was glad to see younger veterans being encouraged to share their own experiences.
“He always shared that, in his time, you were told to leave that where it happened and move on,” Kelly said. “So he was happy with that.”
Day did share one story with the family, though, that forever changed the landscape of family dinners.
Kelly said the story began years ago when he was served spaghetti at one of her children’s birthday parties.
Day politely refused the dish, according to Kelly, and explained that while he was overseas, the man next to him became seasick after eating spaghetti.
“He said for the rest of his life, he never made another noodle again,” she said with a laugh.
Brandi Lumley, Kelly’s sister, said her grandfather often told her he had met professional boxer Joe Louis overseas.
A one-time boxer himself, according to Lumley, Day told her he had to give it up early in life.
“I always remember he would say they wanted him to keep boxing, but he didn’t want to because it always gave him a headache,” she said, chuckling.
Despite his short boxing career, Day maintained a lifelong dedication to sports.
“The Day family had a deep love for baseball,” Collier said. “Dick’s dad and all his brothers and him were known for their outstanding ball-playing.”
Growing up playing in his hometown of Petrolia, Lumley said, he was once considered for the major leagues.
“But by the time he got out of the war, he was too old,” she said.
Day spent over 30 years coaching the sport though, according to Collier, and inspired many of his children and grandchildren to take it up.
“Several great nephews are playing college baseball at this time,” she said.
In his later years, Collier said her brother took up bowling and was inducted into the Butler County Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.
Off the field, Day worked as a machinist at Penn Champ and served as mayor of East Butler.
Kelly said she believed her grandfather got involved with the borough council as a way of promoting its autonomy.
“He was adamant he didn’t want East Butler to have to join with Butler city, because it’s just different and the town had different needs,” she said. “I think that’s why he did it.”
Day was also a member of Happy Hunter’s Sportsman’s Club and a volunteer with the East Butler Fire Hall.
“He was definitely very proud to be an American,” Lumley said. “He was proud of his family, and he was very dedicated to his wife. When my grandma went to Sunnyview, he went to visit her every day.”
That pride and dedication, Kelly said, has left a lasting impact on her life.
“That’s one thing that I’ve taken away from him and being around him all these years,” she said. “Take pride in where you’re at and where you live and what you have — even if you only have a little.”