In Memory

Ralph M Wood Jr - Class Of 1943

Ralph M Wood Jr

Sadly, Ralph M Wood, Jr, a true Renaissance man and restaurant pioneer whose career in the restaurant industry spanned 60-plus years, passed away at the age of 90 on January 25, 2015, in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Ralph volunteered and served his country with distinction in the US Army in World War II. He was a member of General George S Patton's Third Army that fought in Germany.

Ralph's entree into the restaurant industry began during his student days at Occidental College when he worked as a fry cook and host in several restaurants. Following graduation in 1949, his first business venture was a King Karrot Juice Bar located inside the Mayfair Market on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles. In the ensuing years he went on to own and/or operate more than 23 restaurants. In 1966 he realized a dream when he designed and built The Admiral Risty Restaurant in Rancho Palos Verdes. It was one of the first dinner houses on the Peninsula, and nearly 4,000,000 guests have been served there since opening day. Much to her delight, Ralph named the restaurant in honor of his late wife, Barbara 'Risty' Ristrom Wood (SPHS '43).

Ralph was a man whose creative genius never slept. When a method was needed to transport dishes from the waiter's station to the kitchen, Ralph designed a conveyor system. That same system is still in operation today, and it has been adopted by other restaurants.  Long before the computer age, Ralph devised many of the food and labor cost control systems, which he used in all of his restaurants. At his seven Woody's Smorgasburger Restaurants during the years 1956 to 1973, Ralph  introduced the innovative "Sundae Bar" and "Condiment Bar", precursors of today's salad bars that allowed customers to build their own ice cream sundae and burger creations.

His expansive professional affiliations included two terms as president of the Southern California Restaurant Association. His volunteer efforts for the industry were highlighted by nine years as a director of the National Restaurant Association, participated in a symposium tour of Japan, and served two years as convention chair.  Additionally, he was frequently called upon as an industry spokesman; and he had numerous articles published concerning restaurant operating techniques and systems as well as the restaurant industry in general. Under his direction, The Admiral Risty was always an active supporter of the community. Many young teens got their first job at the restaurant, and the restaurant helped raise funds to build the swimming pools at the then three Peninsula high schools.

Ralph was also an avid sailor, dedicated runner, fantastic fly fisherman, a very experienced backpacker, even a tennis coach while at Occidental. He was a past Commodore and longtime member of the King Harbor Yacht Club. Ralph and Risty were world travelers, too, having visited six of the seven continents.

Ralph was married for 67 wonderful years to his high school sweetheart, Risty. Together they raised and educated four children. His children warmheartedly remember a non-judgmental dad who wanted them to follow their own dreams and to do what made them happy. He taught all of them to sail and instilled in them a great respect for nature and conservation. Ralph is survived by his four children, Jon (Lisa), Sara (Chuck), Chip (Lee Ann), and Eric (Robin); six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Interestingly, his son Eric and grandson, Anders, both became professional chefs.

Palos Verdes Peninsula News, February 5, 2015