NORMAN — Dr. Ralph Earle Venk, 88, passed away Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013, in Norman.
A memorial service for Dr. Venk will be 1 p.m. Sunday at the West Wind Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at 1309 W. Boyd St. in Norman.
Ralph was born Sept. 23, 1924, in Chicago to Ernest Anthony Venk and Gertrude Isabel Earle. Ralph’s family moved from Chicago in 1929 to Dearborn, Mich. He graduated from Fordson High School in 1942, where he was a member of the National Honor Society.
He enlisted in 1943 into the Army Air Corp and was assigned to engineering studies at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. He was then transferred to the 1689th Combat Engineer Battalion. He was later deployed to the Philippines as a motor sergeant, and then Japan with the occupation force. After the war, Ralph attended the University of Michigan Dental School graduating in 1951.
While on assignment at Camp Gruber he met the love of his life, Georgia Lou Dunn, at a USO dance at Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa. He married Georgia on July 13, 1947, in Oklahoma City at the First Unitarian Church. After his graduation, they moved to Oklahoma City, where he established his practice.
Dr. Venk maintained an active practice in Oklahoma City from 1951 until 1985. He was a member of the Oklahoma, American and Oklahoma County dental associations. He was a fellow at the Academy of General Dentistry. In 1979, he joined the faculty of the Oklahoma College of Dentistry as a clinical instructor, and then clinical professor.
Dr. Venk had a life-long passion for photography. In 1959, he joined the Oklahoma Camera Club and the Photographic Society of America and served as president of both organizations. He achieved the PSA’s highest honor of honorary fellow in 2006. He was a successful exhibitor in international photographic exhibitions. He and Georgia owned and operated “Concepts in Photography,” a gallery devoted to the promotion of photographic art from 1977 to 1981. He was elected in 1993 to the board of directors of the International Photography Hall of Fame.
Dr. Venk’s many passions included woodworking, music, reading and travel. Ralph and Georgia traveled throughout the U.S. in their motor home, creating many memories and photographs.
In 1995, they moved to Norman to be closer to their grandchildren. In 1997, they became members of Leaders Plus in Norman, which led them to learn about the many opportunities that living in Norman offered.
Ralph and Georgia were charter volunteers at the new Sam Noble Museum of Natural History. Dr. Venk was known for his open and friendly manner as he greeted visitors to the museum. He also donated many hours in the paleontology lab as a volunteer.
Dr. Venk was preceded in death by his parents; his sister, Gertrude; and his wife of 65 years, Georgia.
He is survived by his three children, Virginia Susan Venk, Randall Ernest Venk and his wife Suzanne and Ronald Rexford Venk; three grandchildren, Ryan Venk, Justin Venk and Emily Venk Cook; two great-grandchildren, Hayes and Halle Venk; and his brother-in-law, George V. Dunn.
Norman Transcript, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013