Cpt. Raphael "Ralph" McKinnon

23 Mar 1889
McAskill River, St. Peter's Bay, Kings, PEI, Canada

16 Mar 1943
At sea, enroute to England from Brooklyn, NY

 
 
 

Raphael "Ralph" McKinnon was one of 9 children born to farmer Patrick Peter McKinnon and his wife, Mary, in McAskill River, PEI. Ralph attended St. Dunstan's College in Charlottetown and was a member of the football team in 1909. He traveled all over the US and Canada, pursuing several odd jobs, from shingle loader to deck hand to hotel owner to teacher. He served briefly in the Navy during WWI aboard the Walter Luckenbach. It seems that the Luckenbach was where he found his calling. He stayed on with Luckenbach Steamship Co., one of the most successful and long-lasting US shipping companies, and worked his way up the ranks to Captain.

Ralph married his childhood neighbor from PEI, Angela McKinnon (no relation... they claimed), in Boston, headquartered out of Brooklyn, and eventually moved his family to Oakland, CA. Ralph loved Oakland and spoke of it fondly. His son, little Ralph, died of a burst appendix at age 4. Less than a year later, he adopted his nephew-in-law-- my grandfather.

Ralph wrote often from sea. His character was well-known and his antics were occasionally featured in the news. He had a raven and a kitten aboard his ships. He was in the paper for setting up a swimming pool on one of the boats for the passengers during their wait at the Panama Canal. He enjoyed playing Bridge with his family and neighbors during his rare time at home. He attempted to pay his brother-in-law's debts for their family (I can't confirm whether he actually did, but I expect so). He had a strong sense of duty and respect for military service.

During WWII, the Luckenbach Steamship Co. carried supplies for the war, and in 1943, Ralph was sent on a fatal errand to pilot the Harry Luckenbach in a fleet to England. The Harry Luckenbach never arrived. Halfway through the journey, in the dead zone where air protection generally ended, the fleet was met with U-boat fire. Ralph, whose ship was in the position lovingly nicknamed "coffin corner", sped ahead, dodging multiple torpedoes. He was ordered to fall back in line. This order cost the entire crew of the Harry Luckenbach their lives. Many crew members escaped into lifeboats, but not a single one was rescued. The lifeboats were left to float into the night, never recovered.

 

Parents

Patrick Peter McKinnon

Mary McKinnon

siblings

John Joseph McKinnon
Mary Ellen McKinnon
Annie McKinnon
Patrick Aeneas McKinnon
Clara Josephine McKinnon
Mirian Gertrude "Sister Philomena" McKinnon
May Bertha McKinnon
Mary Leona McKinnon

Spouse(s)

Angela "Ann" McKinnon
m. 22 Sept 1920

children

Mary Clare McKinnon
Ralph Conrad McKinnon

Joseph Christopher McKinnon (adopted)

 

Known Residences

McAskill River, St. Peter's Bay (lot 42), Kings, Prince Edward Island, Canada
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Kasaan, Alaska, USA
Waterfall, Alaska, USA
Wrangell, Alaska, USA
Klawock, Alaska, USA
Brooklyn, Kings, New York, USA
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, USA
Seattle, King, Washington, USA
Yakima, Washington, USA
Granite Falls, Washington, USA
Redwood City, San Mateo, California, USA
Oakland, Alameda, California, USA

Photos

View Ralph McKinnon's Flickr album

 

Additional Information

 
 

Published Mentions