Cover photo for Grover Ratliff Jr's Obituary
Grover Ratliff Jr Profile Photo
1924 Grover 2014

Grover Ratliff Jr

February 24, 1924 — December 21, 2014

Grover Cleveland Ratliff, Jr., 90, died on December 21, 2014, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Grover was born in Fort Worth, Texas, on February 24, 1924. His dad worked for the Rock Island Rail Road as a fireman. Railroad firemen didn't put out fires; they fed them by shoveling coal to feed the boiler to make the train go. At the peak of the depression in 1933 when Grover was nine his father was diagnosed with tuberculosis and could no longer work. Being nine years old Grover didn't understand the hardship that beset them. Hardship though creates resolute characters.

Grover's interest in photography was sparked by a high school friend who worked on the school newspaper. Envious and inspired, Grover won a Kodak Brownie camera by selling the most newspaper subscriptions in a paper route contest. It was his treasure, and thus began Grover's lifelong journey of taking pictures.

After three years of college Grover tried to join the army to fight in WWll but was rejected, classified 4F, the joke was on the army though because he lived for an additional 72 years. He went on to build bombers for the war effort at the Convair Plant in Fort Worth. After studying and receiving a degreee in petroleum engineering at Texas A&M, he married his high school sweetheart Dorothy in 1944. They traveled, ran and played together, and were blessed with four children.

After his time at Convair, he worked at the Texas Highway Department, and then with his considerable salesmanship skills, enjoyed a successful career selling various kinds of highway, aggregate, and heavy equipment until his retirement at 72. Grover lost Dorothy after 58 years of marriage when he was seventy-eight years old.

At the behest of Max & Helen Kudar, and their daughter and son in law Diana and Tim Waycott, Grover started spending his summers in Jackson Hole as their guest. Grover became the newest member of the Kudar family. Grover filled the hole in his heart with his love of photographing nature. A keen observer of nature and wildlife, Grover soon made friends with many outdoor photographers and naturalists while out in the field.

Among his cadre of new photography friends, Grover gained great respect for his enduring passion and determination, spending long hours in the parks taking pictures and sharing his love for nature. He was proud of his relationships with many local and visiting photographers including Charlie Brown, Jake Davis, Henry Holdsworth, Daryl Hunter, Skeeter Lazuzzo, Jim Laybourn, Tom Mangelsen, Kent Nelson, Bernie Scates, Diana Stratton, Bianca Thomas and many others.

Grover's magnetic personality wasn't just for folks he met in the wilds of Jackson Hole, somewhere south of eighty he charmed and married in 2005 what must be one of the best available belles of Texas, and Bettye was the fuel that illuminated Grover's spark. He could not have found a more perfect partner, and the love that Bettye and Grover shared enriched both of their lives in a way that was inspiring to all who knew them. They travelled and explored the west like a couple of young newlyweds, making new friends everywhere they went. While in Jackson, Grover was honored to exhibit his photographs at the Lexington Hotel and to meet most mornings with the Lexington guests, answering their questions about the wildlife and landmarks of Grand Teton and Yellowstone Parks, making many new friends from all over the world. In 2012, a new friend he met at The Lexington encouraged him to make a compilation of his photography. Inspired, Grover collaborated with Jim Laybourn and Julie Godfrey to produce a DVD of his wildlife and landscape photographs, titled "The Best of Grover ". He delighted in his new cutting edge product and peddled it at every chance, selling hundreds to both locals and visitors alike.

Grover's ninth decade took away his ability to walk in the field. Refusing to be benched at such a tender young age, he got an electric cart and a carrier for the back of his car. He would then search for, then find a moose or bear, grab his oxygen apparatus and his camera, go to the back of the Expedition, and lower his cart then scoot over to the moose or bear. Grover inspired everyone he encountered outdoors with his tremendous zest for life.

A publisher named Aaron Linsdau heard of Grover's indomitable spirit, found him then offered him a book deal, Grover became an author at ninety years old. It's a lot of work writing a book when you are ninety, but Grover was up for the challenge. His finished work "Roaming the Wild" was a giant point of pride. Grover Ratliff's irrepressible spirit shines through during his narrative about photography and life. Grover's beautiful wildlife and landscape photography can stand-alone, his anecdotes are icing on the cake.

A favorite passage from "Roaming the Wild: "This bald eagle was perched in an old dead cottonwood tree about 250 yards north of Antelope Flats Road. Of course, I didn't have any lens that would reach that far: I watched him with binoculars for a short time and decided that I could zoom in on him with my feet." Grover was also funny.

Grover's son Kurt in a retrospective, reviewing life lessons learned from his dad mentioned this one; "The better friend you are, the more friends you will have!"

Grover was a good friend, so he had many!

"I'm just your Dad" by Kobey Ratliff I sat with my Dad this morning; it was a cold December day We just squeezed each other's hands, there wasn't much to say He knows where he is going, and we smiled at where he's been His life a gifted journey and all its beauty held within When the final moments beckoned and the time it drew so near He faced it all with courage and not a single bit of fear I told him that I loved him and I'm so proud to be his son He told me that he's tired and we knew his race was run I said Dad, you know you're something, you're really a great guy He took a breath and smiled and he looked me in the eye He said "I'm just your Dad and that's good enough for me" A perfect simple statement of how our lives were meant to be

Preceded in death by his parents, Grover Cleveland Ratliff, Sr., and Laura Olivia Ratliff; his beloved wife of 58 years, Dorothy; his mother-in-law Ellen Conner Hughes; and his step-son Charles Clinton Duggan. Survived by wife, Bettye Conner Ratliff; four children and their spouses, Kim Ratliff (Pam), Kurt Ratliff (Kathy), Kobey Ratliff (Gusti), and Debora Ratliff (Diane Denman); three grandchildren, Kasey Ratliff (Katherine), Blake Ratliff (Jamie), and Laura Olivia Ratliff (Ryan Smith); and two great grandsons, Michael Blake Ratliff, Jr. and Samuel Brennan Ratliff; step-sons Conner Allen Stevens (Celeste); James David Duggan (Deborah), step-daughter, Melissa Ellen Spurrier (Isaac Rios), and nine step-grandchildren, twenty-two step-great grandchildren, and one step-great, great grandchild; and in Jackson, WY, his extended family of Max and Helen Kudar, Diana and Tim Waycott and sons Max and Shane, and Jim Laybourn and Julie Godfrey.

A memorial in celebration of Grover Ratliff's life will be held on January 10, 2015 at 3:00PM inLucas Funeral Home on Precinct Road in Hurst Texas. An additional memorial celebrating Grover's life will be held in Jackson, Wyoming on June 14, 2015 at 2:00PM in the Chapel of the Transfiguration in Grand Teton National Park


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