Ralph L. Minker, Jr., was born June 16, 1924, in Wilmington, Delaware, to Ralph L. Minker, Sr., and Ruth Edna Jones Minker.  The family then moved to Concord, New Hampshire, where Ralph Minker, Sr., was a Methodist pastor.  In the mid-1930s, they returned to Wilmington, and by 1940 Rev. Minker was the superintendent of the Ferris School for Boys.

Ralph, Jr., known as Lee, was senior class president at A.I. du Pont High School where he also played football.  Against the gathering storm of war, he entered Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in the fall of 1941.  Lee joined the Theta Chi fraternity and the debate club, pursued his studies, and was on campus at the time of Pearl Harbor.  Julia Taylor of Wilmington was his girlfriend while he was in college and throughout his military service.

Ralph Minker_in uniform with Western Union Telegram_released to enlistWhen he turned eighteen in June 1942, Lee registered for the draft and was accepted into the Army Air Corps.  He received his orders to report to basic air cadet training in February 1943.  Minker progressed through each phase of pilot training, receiving his commission and wings on March 12, 1944. 

By October of 1944 he was on his way to England as the commander of a  Flying Fortress,  a B-17 he named the Blue Hen Chick to acknowledge his Delaware roots.   Lt. Minker joined the 709th air squadron, 447th bomb group of the Eighth Air Force in October 1944.  He was based at Rattlesden AAF Base in Suffolk. Minker and his crew flew the required thirty-five missions, entitling them to come home.  Lee, however, signed on for a second tour.   He went on leave, then returned to fly the final two missions of the war.  The next week he flew Operation Chowhound, dropping food to the starving Dutch population. 

Minker was the first pilot and commander of a crew of nine, flew thirty-seven combat missions to Germany, earned the Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters and was promoted to captain – all before his twenty-first birthday.  He arrived home on August 31, 1945, and promptly returned to Dickinson College, completing his degree in 1947. 

Following college, Ralph Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps to Boston University School of Theology.  He was ordained a Methodist minister in 1951, serving eleven churches in the Peninsula Conference throughout his career.  He married Peggy Ann Reynolds on August 4, 1952.  They had two children, Janet R. Minker and Ralph Minker III (Skip Van Meter). They were divorced in the early 1970s. From 1977 to 1984 he worked as a career counselor in Washington, D.C., returning to the pulpit in 1984.  Minker married Sandra O’Connell in 1980. They lived in Reston, Virginia, until his death on August 5, 2008.  His Washington Post obituary was published on August 19, 2008.

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