Family & Friends
By Bob Gummersall, F127494
Father Ralph Carney, F309996, is a retired Catholic priest who serves members of FMCA as the chaplain of a new chapter called The Roamin’ Catholics, and also as chaplain of FMCA’s Northwest Area.
A native of Washington, D.C., Father Ralph now lives in the state of Washington, near Tacoma. During his 50-plus years as a priest, he has served as an army chaplain, a minister to people with mental illness, a parish priest, and now an FMCA chaplain. He states that through these varied experiences, he has had an opportunity to really experience life as a priest.
He proudly displays his FMCA “goose egg” on his Alpine Coach as he travels throughout the West attending FMCA rallies and enjoying his motorhoming lifestyle. He says daily Mass at each rally he attends, while also enjoying the fellowship and camaraderie of being a member of FMCA. His constant travel companion, Katy, is a friendly miniature Doberman pinscher. When not on the road, he lives in his motorhome while performing his retirement work as a chaplain at the Fort Lewis Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington.
Ordained as a Franciscan priest in 1953, Father Ralph was selected by his order’s province superior for service in the U.S. Army. His military chaplaincy led him to Vietnam, where at least three times he was close enough to the fighting to hear bullets flying around him. Once, during a helicopter mission, a bullet went right between him and the person sitting next to him. He also qualified for Army Airborne service and jumped out of airplanes to be with the soldiers to whom he was ministering. Father Ralph retired from the military after 20 years of service with the rank of colonel.
His next job was at Western State Hospital in Tacoma during the late 1970s where, for the next 14 years, he ministered to the mentally ill. From 1993 to 1999 he served as the pastor at St. John Bosco Church in Lakewood, Washington.
Father Ralph has always liked vehicles “” especially fast cars “” and raced a Porsche 356 and a 911 in his early years as a priest. Early last year he suffered a mild stroke that limited the strength on the left side of his body, making it difficult for him to activate the clutch on his Porsche Carerra. So, he traded it in for an automatic Porsche Cayenne S.
Father Ralph’s introduction to the RVing lifestyle took place when he returned from Vietnam. He was assigned to Fort Stewart, Georgia, but the base did not have any quarters for him. So, he bought a 31-foot Airstream trailer to live in. He was permitted to park it right next to the chapel, and it served as his “quarters” for a little more than a year.
This experience stayed in the back of his mind, and in 2000 he was attracted to a Western RV Alpine Coach as a way to live full-time in a home on wheels while doing his retirement work. Father Ralph thought that having a motorhome would allow him to live with all his belongings while helping the Catholic Church of Western Washington. At about the same time he was called upon to serve as a chaplain at Madigan Army Hospital. Today he and Katy live full-time in the Alpine Coach, mostly at the Fort Lewis Army campground. He also helps out at parishes in the Chehalis-Centralia area on weekends.
Northwest Area national vice president Jim Phillips, F158824, who also is a retired member of the military, met Father Ralph when they both were parked at the Fort Lewis campground. Jim quickly recruited him to become a member of FMCA in time to attend the 2002 Northwest Area Rally in Moses Lake, Washington, where he was appointed as the Northwest Area chaplain.
At the 2003 Northwest Area Rally in Albany, Oregon, Father Ralph said daily Mass and was instrumental in forming The Roamin’ Catholics. As a charter member, he has provided real support in getting the chapter off the ground. The chapter held its first rally at St. Martin’s Abbey in Lacey, Washington, last September and, of course, Father Ralph was there to say Mass and provide spiritual guidance.
Father Ralph has experienced much in life, but has an eye toward the future. The stroke in 2003 threatened to cut short his activity, but he has made a near full recovery and is looking forward to many FMCA activities and serving the FMCA family. He says that God has more for him to do.
National RV Great Lakers Make Lake Superior Circle Tour
By Bill Gardiner, F239634
Last fall, members of the National RV Great Lakers participated in the chapter’s first extended caravan, a two-week circle tour of Lake Superior. Fifteen National RV motorhomes “” including Sea Views, Dolphins, Sea Breezes, Tradewinds, and Tropi-Cals “” made up the caravan led by wagon masters Bill and Alice Gardiner, F239634. The trip kicked off on September 15, 2003, following the chapter’s September rally in Ludington, Michigan, and concluded on September 28.
Making the trip with the Gardiners were Sam and Avenell Adams, F268923; Lloyd and Sally Aufdenkamp, F227959; Marque and Phyllis Debenport, F241099; Bud and Vi Halder, F104419; Bill and Sandy Hammond, F276633; Jerry and Vivian Lawrence, F227060; Bob and Ginny Lucht, F143192; Jim and Sally McHaffie, F167162; John and Shirley McLaughlin, F227862; Matt and Gloria Messer, F242824, with guests Everett and Diane Gave; Bob and Karen Moenart, F288869; John and Liz Pfeilsticker, F227475; John and Phyllis Schumacher, F238172; and Del and Iris Young, F225146.
The east-to-west circuit included stops at Batchawana Bay, Wawa, Nipigon, and Thunder Bay in Ontario, Canada; Grand Marais, Minnesota; Bayfield, Wisconsin; and Ontonagon, Munising, and Mackinaw City, Michigan.
Highlights of the trip included a campfire at Batchawana Bay, where the rain stopped long enough for us to enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets; waterfalls in Wawa; and a tour of a plywood factory in Nipigon. On the way to Thunder Bay we visited an amethyst mine and Ouimet Canyon. Several members took a side trip to see Old Fort William, Kakabeka Falls, and the scenic lookout on Mount McKay. A small group also visited a curling club, whose members play this Canadian winter pastime.
The Split Rock Lighthouse near Beaver Bay, Minnesota, was a stopping place for the group. From there we commenced southward around the west end of the lake, and spent that night at the Red Cliff Indian Reservation, north of Bayfield, Wisconsin.
A tour of the Caledonia Copper Mine was the highlight of the stay in Ontonagon, Michigan. Rich Whiteman, a noted geologist and president of Red Metal Minerals, the company that owns the mine, led us on a tour that gave us a better understanding of what underground mining is about. The group was issued hard hats, belts, and lights for the trip into a copper-laden hill. In addition to picking up small pieces of copper ore, we were able to view a number of sleeping bats who call the mine home.
In Munising, some chapter members took a boat tour of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, while others tried to get a glimpse of the formations from land. The weather didn’t cooperate at this point of the trip, and the constant rain and wind kept outdoor activities to a minimum. However, a bonus was seeing Mother Nature’s colors. Many of the trees had begun to turn all along the 1,800-mile tour, displaying the reds, oranges, yellows, browns, and greens that we have become used to seeing in the fall.
The final day of the trip was capped off by a group dinner in Mackinaw City.
What’s the next big trip on the National RV Great Lakers’ agenda? Most of us decided a circle tour of Lake Huron might be appropriate.
FMCA Pioneer Passes Away
Eric T. Webster, L16, who served as a national director and national vice president during FMCA’s formative years, passed away on October 11, 2003, at the age of 87.
Mr. Webster and his first wife, Elizabeth, better known as “Ibby,” were among the 26 families that gathered in Hinckley, Maine, when FMCA was founded in July 1963. Mr. Webster was FMCA’s first national director from Canada, serving in that position from 1965 to 1969, and he also served a term as national vice president (1970-71).
Mr. Webster’s first coach was built on a 45-passenger Prevost bus shell he bought in the 1950s. In 1960 he purchased an MCI Challenger bus shell, which was converted for use as the family motorhome. Three years later, he sold that unit for another MCI Challenger. Eventually he sold the MCI conversion for a production GMC Motorhome.
Mr. Webster was born in 1916 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He received a bachelor’s degree and an engineering certificate from Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. When World War II broke out he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. He served until 1946, leaving the military with the rank of Wing Commander.
Following the war he moved to Sherbrooke, Quebec, where he worked for J.S. Mitchell and Company Ltd., a supplier of hardware, electrical goods, and industrial supplies. He eventually became president and general manager of the company until it was sold in 1964. From there he established Eastern Townships Warehousing Ltd. He also went into farming and served a term as president of the Canadian Hereford Association.
Mr. Webster was very active in his community, volunteering for the Red Cross and Community Chest, as well as participating in public and private school activities. Beginning in 1949, he became a member of the Board of Trustees for Stanstead College, located near Sherbrooke. From 1964 to 1975 he served as chairman of the board, and from 1975 until his death he was an honorary chairman. He also was active with the Trinity United Church, the Sherbrooke Hospital, Bishop’s College School, and Bishop’s University, and was a member of the Eastern Townships Protestant School Board and the Air Force Association. In 1970 he established the Eric T. Webster Foundation, which has made charitable contributions to schools, hospitals, and other worthy causes.
In his free time, when he wasn’t working on his motorhome, Mr. Webster also was interested in antique and classic cars.
Mr. Webster had three children “” Norman, William, and Margaret “” with Ibby. After her death in 1974, he married Jane, who joined him in his enthusiasm for motorhoming. The couple lived in Dunrobin, Ontario, for several years before settling in Nepean, Ontario.
FMCA charter member Genny Jennings Luckey, L26, who worked alongside Mr. Webster during the association’s early years, remembers him as a very quiet, knowledgeable man who only was interested in doing things right for FMCA. Another longtime member, George Snyder, L1852, recalled Mr. Webster as “a fine man and friend who was well-respected and dedicated to FMCA.”
In addition to his wife and children from his first marriage, he is survived by three stepsons, 12 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.