Ralph Leon Burden was born Dec. 28, 1916, and his mother, Leona, died 13 days later.
He lived for a few years with neighbors, Lavonia and Sam Bobb, until his father remarried.
Ralph attended Blume High School in his hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio, but quit at age 16 when his father, Robert, died. He moved back in with the Bobb family and took over his dad’s trucking business. Ralph was a burly guy who rode a motorcycle.
The sadness of the teen’s life continued when his stepmother, Oreada, died less than a year after his father. Ralph sold the business to a half-brother and moved to Chicago to work for a scrap-metal company.
In the summer of 1940 he began studying radio in preparation for enlisting in the Navy, which he did in October. He was a radioman third class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.
A memorial service was held the next February at First English Lutheran Church, where he’d also been baptized and confirmed. American Legion members attended in uniform and a soloist sang “One Sweet Solemn Thought” and “Nearer My God, To Thee.”
The government sent Mr. Burden’s Purple Heart to the Bobbs in 1943, where they put it on display at the Lutz Sunshine Store.
Sources: Special thanks to Sara Sammetinger Hammond, whose family is from Wapakoneta and who reached out to several sources there to assemble most of the information in this profile. Those include the Auglaize County Historical Society, First English Lutheran Church and the Wapakoneta Daily News. Special thanks, also, to Carol Bobb Ridenour, the granddaughter of Sam and Lavonia Bobb, for the photograph. Other sources include: Census; Navy muster rolls; Ohio birth and death records, and grave markers. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona