Ralph Albert Sobota, 89, passed away in his home in Alma Center on August 5, 2017.
Ralph was born on January 23, 1928, in Independence to John and Helen Sobota. He graduated from Independence High School, where he excelled in basketball and baseball. An outstanding natural athlete, his love of sports would shape the rest of his life. After graduating from high school, he joined the United States Army and became part of the post-WWII European occupation forces in Italy, where he played baseball for the Army team. Upon his return, he attended Wisconsin Teachers College in La Crosse where he played baseball for three more years. It was there that a St. Louis Cardinals scout spotted him and signed him to a contract. He then played professional baseball for the Cardinals farm team in Omaha, Nebraska. He played semi-pro ball with the Huron Elks and Winona Chiefs. On June 25, 1951, he married Theresa (TC) Lyga of Independence.
His entire teaching and coaching career was spent at Lincoln High School in Alma Center, where he coached boys and girls basketball, as well as baseball, taking his team to the state tournament in 1972, 1973, and 1974. He was also instrumental in starting Little League baseball in the community. Throughout his career, he touched the lives of many young people. Reminders of his distinguished athletic legacy now hang proudly in two places in Wisconsin. At Lincoln High, signs bearing his name adorn the entrances to the eponymous Ralph Sobota Gymnasium, and a photo of him hangs in a hallway as part of the Lincoln High School Hall of Fame. And at Miller Park in Milwaukee, a plaque hangs recognizing him as a 1998 inductee and member of the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame.
Ralph held dear the community of Alma Center, continuing to attend Hornet sporting events throughout his life, and attending 65 consecutive commencement ceremonies at Lincoln. He held a veritable residency at Comstock’s Strawberry Patch, spending countless hours as the “straw-boss” after retirement, and many more picking blueberries and strawberries for his beloved wife to make pies and jams. Later in life, he also enjoyed getting his daily newspaper from the lovely girls at Strawberry Square and playing cards with his pals from the feed mill.
While he was always busy with sports, his family always came first. Ralph never met a sacrifice he wasn’t willing to make for his wife and daughters, and he considered them his greatest accomplishment and the most precious treasure of his life. He will be forever missed by them. A personality that could at times intimidate students and players, he was a different man around family, portraying his soft, sensitive side through his boundless love and devotion.
He served his community proudly and humbly, never asking for any praise for his work or accomplishments. He was deeply religious and a lifelong member of Immaculate Conception Church in Alma Center, where he met John Schroeder every day at 1:45 to pray. He loved fishing and gardening, and he couldn’t have been happier than to spend his days doing both.
Ralph is survived by his four daughters, Sara (Bill) Dobyns, Sally (Kyle) Anderson, Peg (John) Hayden, Mary (Dan) Shaw; six grandchildren, Cate (Josh) Pardo, Tim (Lindsey) Dobyns, Ian (Shannon) Hensley, Hannah Hensley, Lilly Shaw, and Sam Shaw; and four great-grandchildren, Gavin Pardo, Beckett Pardo, Anthony Hensley, and Isaiah Hensley; many nieces and nephews, and more friends than a man could ever need.
Ralph was preceded in death by his wife TC, who he missed dearly after her passing in 2014 and who he now joyfully reunites with in Heaven; his parents; his brothers Everett, Roman, and Richard, and his sister, Evelyn; his granddaughter, Emily; and his nephew, Jim Helgeson, who was like a son to him..
Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, August 9, 2017 at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Alma Center. Burial will be in SS. Peter & Paul Catholic Cemetery, Independence, at 1:30 p.m.
Visitation will be held at the church from 4-8 p.m. Tuesday, with a prayer service and rosary at 7:30 p.m. and one hour prior to Mass at the church on Wednesday.
Memorials may be directed to Lincoln Youth Athletic Association or Immaculate Conception Church Roof Fund.
Online condolences may be offered at www.edisonfuneralhome.com