By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer
GREEN TWP. - Ralph E. Plagge helped keep commerce moving on the Ohio River just as the towboat Ralph E. Plagge - his namesake - keeps coal barges moving today.
Mr. Plagge once said that the river gets in the blood - he was hooked from the time he took his first trip on the steamer Charles Dorrance (formerly the John W. Hubbard) hauling 20 barges full of West Virginia coal.
He spent 31 years as vice president of transportation for Midland Enterprises and its subsidiary, the Ohio River Co. His company christened the Dorrance's successor, the Ralph E. Plagge, in 1976 and fittingly, Mr. Plagge bid farewell to his career at a retirement party on the Dorrance in its reincarnation as the Mike Fink.
Mr. Plagge, 85, died of heart failure Tuesday at his Green Township home.
A native of Covedale, he was graduated from Elder High School before being drafted into the Army in October 1941. Mr. Plagge was proud to have served as a staff sergeant.
In October 1942 he married Grace Schwartz. Their first two sons were born at Fort Benning, Ga., before the war's end.
Mr. Plagge returned to Cincinnati, and his family soon included another son. He attended two years of business school and held several jobs before finding the one he loved - the river transportation business. He began as an accounting clerk for the Ohio River Co. and moved to transportation when a dispatcher was seriously injured in a home accident.
He worked his way up to manager of transportation, then special assistant to the vice president of operations and, finally, vice president of transportation.
Mr. Plagge retired 20 years ago and focused his attention on his family and on keeping his home and yard in picture-perfect shape.
Survivors include: his wife of 60 years, Grace Schwartz Plagge; three sons, Robert J., and William R., both of Delhi Township, and Richard J. of Colerain Township; a sister, Grace Kernen of Delhi Township; five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Mass of Christian burial is 11 a.m. today at St. Simon the Apostle Church, 825 Pontius Road, Delhi Township. Burial will be at St. Joseph Old Cemetery Mausoleum in Price Hill. Memorials: Elder High School, 3900 Vincent Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45205; or Vitas Health Care, 11500 Northlake Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249-9705.
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