Ralph Thomas Waldrop, Sr., a life-long resident of Mayfield, Kentucky and the father of former longtime head of the NTRA Alex Waldrop, passed away Friday, Feb. 24, surrounded by family at his home. He was 100 years old.
Waldrop was born June 7, 1922, near Mayfield. As a young boy growing up during the Great Depression, he worked many jobs including as a newspaper boy for the Louisville Courier-Journal where he was recognized as a statewide top-seller and as a caddy at Mayfield Golf and Country, where he was a member for most of his adult life. In 1941, at the age of 19 after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mr. Waldrop enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and was called up for officer training in April, 1943. He was sent to Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama for qualifying tests to become a pilot and in May of 1944 he was stationed with the 340th Bomb Group 444th Squadron on the island of Sardinia off the coast of Italy as the pilot of a B-26 Martin Marauder bomber. During his service, Mr. Waldrop flew 64 bombing missions over Italy, France and Germany and volunteered to fly a C- 47 Cargo plane for 52 supply missions to General Patton's 3rd Army on the front lines of the Battle of the Bulge. He flew one of the first planes into Germany after the end of WWII to assist in the liberation of multiple Nazi concentration camps and witnessed first-hand the atrocities suffered by those imprisoned there. He eventually achieved the rank of Captain. The 340th Bomb Group was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation and the French awarded his Bombing Group the Croix de Guerre, the first such citation made to an American unit in WWII. His personal awards were: Air Medal with 8 Oak Clusters; Campaign Medals, Northern Apennines; Po Valley; Southern France; Ardennes-Alsace; Rhineland; Central Europe; the Victory Medal, and he was inducted into France's National Order of the Legion of Honor as a Chevalier for his service in WWII.
Waldrop attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C. before the war and was a proud member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. After the war, he attended the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, VA, and graduated from Murray State University where he met and in 1950 married the love of his life and the mother of his five children, Mary Julia Moore Waldrop, a fellow graduate of Murray State University.
With his father, H.C. Waldrop, he founded Waldrop & Waldrop Real Estate, where for more than 60 years Mr. Waldrop was a successful realtor and MAI Appraiser. He served as president of the Kentucky Association of Realtors in 1967, was named Kentucky Realtor of the Year in 1968, and then in 1988, he was elected president of the Kentucky Chapter of the Appraisal Institute. Waldrop was a life-long member of the First United Methodist Church in Mayfield where he was active as a Sunday school teacher and a beloved song leader for many years. Waldrop loved the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs and attended the Run for the Roses many times over the last 80 years.
Waldrop is survived by five children: H. Gregory (Nancy) Waldrop of Cadiz, KY, R. Thomas Waldrop, Jr. of Mayfield, Alex Waldrop (Jayne) of Lexington, KY, Julie Waldrop Muscarella (Michael) of Paducah, KY and Jim Waldrop (Charlotte Reynolds) of Jackson, WY; seven grandchildren: one great-grandchild, Penelope Press, Palo Alto, CA; his sister, Ruth Helen Williams, Paducah; and many beloved nieces and nephews.
Mr. Waldrop was preceded in death by his wife of 45 years, Mary Julia, who died in 1995.
The family wishes to thank the many caregivers who helped Mr. Waldrop so wonderfully in the last years of his life as well as the staff at the Veterans Administration in Mayfield including his primary care physician, Lynn Bushor, DNP, APRN.
Funeral arrangements are pending. In lieu of flowers or other gifts, the family asks that any gifts be made to the Murray State University Foundation, Waldrop Scholarship, at 200 Heritage Hall, Murray, KY 42071 or First United Methodist Church, Mayfield, KY, P.O. Box 766, Mayfield, KY 42066.
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