Ralph Pillsbury Gates Jr., a longtime volunteer and later Board member of the National Orchestral Association, passed away on May 7, 2018 at the age of 93. He was originally introduced to our organization by our late Chairman, Frances Kennedy, and became an important contributor to the Association’s work.

He was born in Chicago, Illinois, and graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in engineering, later receiving a Master's degree in Chemical Engineering from M.I.T. During World War II, Ralph participated in the top-secret Manhattan Project which built the atomic bomb that finally ended the war in the Pacific. Following the war, Ralph worked for Victor Chemical in Nashville and then Stauffer Chemical in Westport, Connecticut. In addition to his successful career, Ralph was an avid volunteer for numerous charitable organizations including the National Orchestral Association. In later life, Ralph was particularly proud of his work in preserving the legacy of World War II veterans. He traveled around the country videotaping the stories of these veterans, and was invited to speak at numerous veterans’ events.


In addition to his charitable endeavors, Ralph was an active sportsman, who enjoyed sailing, tennis, skiing, fly fishing, golf, camping and hiking. In 2015 at the age of 90, Ralph joined a group of friends in Alta for a day of skiing. He was active socially, participating in a barbershop quartet, singing in his church’s choir, and was an honorary member of the Captain's Club in Salt Lake City.


The Board of Directors of the National Orchestral Association wishes to express its appreciation to Ralph for his incredible service to our organization, both as a member of the Board, and inspiration in his ongoing project to preserve the legacy of World War II veterans. Ralph's upbeat demeanor, his can-do attitude, and his wise advice to the Board will be greatly missed. He was one of a kind, a proud American, and generous in every endeavor. He always had a kind word for everyone, including those with whom he did not agree. Civility and a respect for others were the hallmarks of Ralph's personality.