Ralf L. Hartwell

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Peabody - Ralf Lee Hartwell Jr., died peacefully Friday, August 16, 2019, while a resident at Brooksby Village, in Peabody, Massachusetts. Born May 12, 1928, and raised in Orange, New Jersey, he was the son of Ralf Lee Hartwell and Mary Davis Hartwell. Ralf attended Buxton Private School where he developed a love of history and languages. With no available congressional appointments to West Point, Ralf spent a year at Rutgers, and the University of Minnesota, studying Russian and Japanese language and culture. He obtained a congressional appointment to the Naval Academy, graduating in 1950. He spent his service obligation piloting blimps up and down the eastern seaboard looking for enemy submarines. During that time he met and married the late Marguerite Ramsdell Dixon in 1952. The peripatetic lifestyle of a lieutenant (j.g.) grew old and at his wife's behest he resigned his commission in 1955 to join the General Electric Corporation in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and start a family.
Ralf had a long and successful career with General Electric. However, he was destined to continue on a nomadic path working for General Electric in New York, Maryland, Ohio, Minnesota, Virginia, retiring to Newton, New Hampshire, in 1986, after leading the facility in Woburn, Massachusetts.
Ralf's passions centered on travel, weaving, and family. Determined to inculcate his children with respect and curiosity for other cultures he frequently sponsored foreign visitors and exchange students to live in his home. He also had an abiding love for train travel crossing the United States, Canada, Australia, and South Africa.
He had the patience and creativity to produce many unique fabric pieces on his loom. This was a hobby he shared with his wife. When a patron requested a baby blanket or other piece of art he would remark that he was slow and expensive yet his customers were not deterred. The culmination of his weaving abilities was manifested in his creation of the official New Hampshire Tartan, an original piece of work sanctioned by the state that blended colors
representing the mountains, lakes and forests of the Granite State. Another avenue for his creativity was the frequent poems he would write to commemorate holidays and other special events.
The warp and weft of Ralf's life however was the joy he derived from family gatherings. He relished seeing his family enjoy each other's company both dressed for a fine dinner at his beloved Skytop resort, or out in all of nature's glory such as annual visits to the Boundary Waters while living in Minnesota. Special family gatherings included adventures in Whistler, Canada, Scotland, and St. John, USVI.
Ralf is survived by his son, James Hartwell and his wife Laura; his elder daughter Janet Hartwell Barnet and her husband Peter; and his younger daughter Sarah Hartwell Pennywitt and her husband Neil. He is also survived by four grandchildren, Jessica Barnet O'Shea, Kaitlin Barnet, and Jenna and Megan Pennywitt; his sister Mary Hartwell; and his extended family Wendy, Jim, Marguerite and James Kennish of Brentwood, N.H., who have been by his side for the last 30 years.


A remembrance of his life will be held at Brooksby Village for the local community on Friday, August 23, 2019, at 10 a.m. and a memorial service for all will be held during the Thanksgiving Holidays when the whole family can gather at Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church, Danvers, Mass. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the MPN Research Foundation, 180 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1870, Chicago, IL 60601. This organization stimulates original research in pursuit of a cure for myleofibrosis, the disease that took the life of Ralf's wife. Marguerite in 1992.
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Published on August 20, 2019
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2 posts

Adele Pelletier
Aug 23, 2019
I have fond memories of Ralf from church. I pray for comfort for all his loved ones. He will be missed.
Aug 19, 2019