Ralph William Oliver


Ralph William Oliver (Bill) left this earth in the middle of his 99th year on Jan. 18, 2023 in North Fort Myers, Fla. We will forever fondly remember and love his ready smile, sense of humor and most of all his kindness and compassion. A lifelong Delhian, he was first to lend a hand, and a blessing and role model to his family and many friends.

He was born to Ralph S. and Margaret Oliver on Aug. 21, 1924, upstairs in a bedroom of their three generation Peakes Brook family farm. His strong work ethic was cultivated through the many tasks that allowed small family farms to make ends meet – milking, making maple syrup, gardening, haying, and harvesting every fruit they could plant or find. Through the influence of his parents and his many chores, he learned hard work, integrity and respect, values that he passed on to his children and grandchildren. 

Early schooling began in a one-room schoolhouse, (the same one his father had attended), a little over 500 feet from the farmhouse where he was born. Bill’s parents purchased the schoolhouse when it was decommissioned, and began renovations to turn it into a home. Eventually they sold the old schoolhouse to Bill and his wife, who in turn sold it to their son, Wayne and family. Very active in 4-H in childhood, he also enjoyed sports in high school and, later, in the Army Air Force. His passion for sports was passed on to his many descendants. 

Bill proudly enlisted in the Army Air Force at the close of World War II. Stationed in Goose Bay, Labrador, he made lifelong friends, earning a private pilot license with them, fulfilling a cherished dream. 

For the next stage of his life, Bill headed south to Florida. There his life changed forever when he met a young lady named Corky on the beach. They eloped on July 10, 1952, beginning a 70-year journey of abiding love, companionship and partnership.

After trying his hand at other things, Bill spent the rest of his career working at the Delaware Academy Bus Garage. There he did an exceptional job as a driver, trainer, mechanic, administrator, bus driver, and friend to all who met or worked with him. He touched the lives of generations of students, teachers, and parents. His attention to detail and concern for students led to New York state officially and publicly recognizing his record for school bus safety. 

Bill’s interests were varied but almost always involved his family and working with his sizable hands. Resourceful and imaginative, Bill loved fixing anything and everything around the house. He did his own electrical, plumbing, heating, carpentry, gardening, raising chickens, engine repair, painting and roofing.  He even installed his own satellite dish. With the help of family, he built most of the additions to the schoolhouse-turned-home. Some of his greatest creations were the bicycles and VW Bugs he made out of discarded parts. 

An occasional cigar or a beer brought him delight, as did his favorite food – cookies, especially when enjoyed with family or friends. The annual Oliver Pow Wow energized and excited him, leading to months of anticipatory conversations about seeing his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, nieces, nephews and siblings. At the event, he loved the food and card playing the most, especially playing pinochle and pitch with all ages of family, who were often in awe of his uncanny ability to win. It is hard to imagine this celebration without his presence.

He was preceded in death by two sons, Keith and Brian. He is survived by six children: Dennis (Erwin), Kevin (Cynthia), Lori Oliver (wife of Keith), Wayne (Debbie), Michele Dunn, Michael (Susan), Jeff (Kate); 19 grandchildren: Tanya, Amanda, Jessica, Kristin, Briana, Bailey, Connor, Paige, Ryan, Samantha, Chad, MacKenzie, Elizabeth, Alex, Madison, Peter, Corinne, Lydia, Keating; and 10 great-grandchildren.

Bill spoke on numerous occasions of his disdain for mourning. He wanted a joyful party instead of a funeral. Therefore, a Celebration of Life service will be held at the First Presbyterian Church in Delhi on July 5, at 1 p.m. Donations can be sent to the Helios Hospice that provided such kind and gentle care to Bill (helioscare.org/donate) or the Delhi American Legion Post 190 (alegion@delhitel.net).