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Ralph Walton Crew Profile
Oiler, S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald

Ralph Grant Walton, oiler on the Edmund Fitzgerald, was born in 1917 near Sycamore, Ohio to a family of six children. An older brother and an older sister still live near their hometown. Ralph grew up and married, and got into the shipping business. Having sailed on many of Columbia ’s ships, the majority of his time was spent on the Frank Purnell as conveyor man. His brother Wade also sailed for Columbia and was Chief Engineer on many ships, including the Fitzgerald, in 1970s.

Ralph's widow now lives in Fremont, Ohio, while a son Alan last worked as First Assistant Engineer for the American Steamship Co. and lives in New Hampshire.

Not wanting to leave the ships in the winter, he always volunteered for the position of winter ship keeper on the freighter he was working on. His nephews made many visits to tour the ice bound vessels their uncle worked on. A highlight for “Uncle Grant” was visiting his nephew George Walton's home during the winter months and sharing many tubs of popcorn and telling his "tales of the sea." In all likelihood he was on duty when the Fitz sank, as the 4-8 shift was the preferred watch for senior members of the crew.





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