It was in Plainview, Illinois, on 15 July 1924, that Roland Francis Ratz was born, the younger of two brothers. His father, Edward John Sr., was a telegrapher with the Chicago & Alton Railroad. His mother, Helene Eleanore Gotsch, grew up in Staunton as the daughter of a Lutheran school teacher. She was the sixteenth of eighteen children. On 7 October 1912, they married in St. Louis at Emmaus Lutheran Church where Ella’s parents became members after her father retired from teaching at Zion Lutheran School in Staunton and returned to St. Louis.

Edward died too soon in life, in 1925, leaving Ella with her two young sons to raise alone. The family resettled in Shipman, Illinois, remaining for several years before Ella and her sons moved to St. Louis to be near her family. Roland and his brother, Edward Jr., were raised as members of Emmaus with Roland attending their school until eighth grade graduation in 1938. The family at that time lived on Shenandoah Street, where Roland was employed as an errand boy for a drug store.

But drug store errand boys grow up, and Roland got a job with the Red Cross. He shared the story of being in Illinois and trying to outrun a tornado with one foot on the gas pedal and the other on the running board of the Red Cross car he was driving. It is not remembered if he was able to outrun the twister or if he had to abandon the car.

While employed by the Red Cross, he met his future wife, Betty Jane Wilkerson. “Jane,” who legally changed her given name from Betty to Elizabeth, was born in Wellington, Kansas, on 11 May 1926. She was the daughter of Allen Benson and Virgie Iretta (Collins) Wilkerson. The couple married in 1946 at Messiah Lutheran Church in St. Louis. Three children were born to this union: Rosemary, Cheryl, and Philip.

Roland Ratz
Roland and Jane Ratz, c. 1945
Photo in the collection of Cheryl Gross
Used with permission

Roland’s next-known job was for Century Electric, after which he worked at RCA repairing TVs throughout St. Louis. He was next employed by KPLR-TV as an engineer in what his daughter (this author) remembers being called the sound room. There he remained until his retirement. This daughter of his has good memories of being on the Captain 11 show multiple times and of playing with her younger brother in the famed, bouncy “Wrestling at the Chase” ring in the studio. From the sound room, we could open a door and see into the Chase Park Plaza Hotel’s Khorassan Ballroom to spy on the events.

Roland and Jane’s marriage ended in divorce. Jane, who didn’t marry again, moved to New Mexico, then California, where she died in San Diego on 24 April 2008. Eventually Roland married Rose Ann Farley, and they lived in Bridgeton until his death on 13 May 2006.

Jane was cremated and her ashes spread in the San Diego Bay. Roland was also cremated, but his cremains are buried next to his mother and brother in Laurel Hill Gardens in Pagedale.

Written by Cheryl Gross
May 2018

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Last Modified: 26-Oct-2018 19:27