"You gotta sound like what you are."
- Ray Charles
Integrity. I was thinking the other day how the heck I was gonna sum up Ralph Jensen's life. And then it hit me. He was Whistler's Popeye. Remember the old sailor's favourite saying? "I yam what I yam?" Well, I can't imagine another phrase that better reflects this ol' Whistlerite's style.
We lost a good one when we lost Ralph Jensen. Teacher, mentor, leader, friend - and passionate Whistler advocate - Jensen was the kind of guy on whose accomplishments our little community of valley dwellers was built. He was far too young to leave us. Way too wise to go so soon.
I can still remember how he'd greet my wife in the old days. "Hey Ladner," he'd growl out in his familiar nasal way. "When you gonna grow old like the rest of us?" And then he'd give her a big smooch and burst into laughter...
That was Jensen all the way. Rough and tough but with a heart of gold that he never bothered to camouflage. Ardent skier, precise builder, ski technician to the stars - the man invested his soul in every enterprise he undertook. And every character he took under his wing.
But enough of my words. In an effort to better reflect what this guy stood for, I put out a request to his friends for comments on his life. And given the size of his "community" I knew I'd get some good stuff. Here's a sampling of what I received:
From Thomas Grandi, Canada's most successful slalom ace: "I'll always remember Ralph's voice and the words 'Stay over them Thomas! Stay over them!' as I pushed out of the start. Ralphy, forever number one in the ski room."
From B.C. Alpine chief Bruce Goldsmid: "It was the early 1970s - Ralph owned a tree planting company called ODIN contracting. We were all tree planting at MINAC lodge on Canim Lake near 100 Mile House. On the next to final night Ralph did a liquor store run for the crew. The outcome was not pretty. Fun was had by all but none of us could plant the next day. He was a great boss..."
From Senator Nancy Greene: "Ralph was one of those special people who was always fun to be around. As a ski tech, he was superb, and I know his level-headed manner made for an oasis of calmness for World Cup racers under the stress of competition. Ralph was a giver, with a droll sense of humour and a cheerful smile. He will be missed."