NORMAN — Ralph Layton Runkle passed away Dec. 13, 2012 of cardiac arrest. He was born in Oklahoma City to Alice and Lowe Runkle. He was named Layton in honor of his great grandfather, Solomon Andrew Layton, the first major architect in Oklahoma, who designed and built the state capitol, the Oklahoma City Civic Center, the Skirvin Hotel and the University of Oklahoma Library among many others.
Layton grew up in the Crown Heights area of Oklahoma City, and graduated from Casady in 1957. There, he was a National Merit Scholar, and went on to graduate cum laude from Princeton University with a degree in biochemistry. He spent a year at the Oklahoma Health Sciences Center as a graduate student in microbial chemistry. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma Medical School in 1966, where he was a member of the honor medical society, Alpha Omega Alpha.
Following medical school he did two years of general surgery internship and residency at the University of Washington in Seattle. He returned to Oklahoma to complete his residency. He was drafted during the Vietnam War and served two years as the Chief of Otolaryngology at Irwin Army Hospital in Fort Riley, Kansas. He was awarded a Certificate of Achievement by the Army for service as both Chief Otolaryngologist at Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth.
After leaving the service, Layton began private practice as the first Otolaryngologist ever in Norman. He remained in practice there until 2007. He also held the position of Clinical Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology. During the last ten years of his practice, he devoted one day per week to teaching at the Oklahoma Health Science Center.
Layton was a natural athlete, playing football, baseball and running track. He was a high school All-American Football player, and Oklahoma City Little All City Player of the Year in 1957. He was also a Little All City pitcher in baseball, and offered a spot on a New York Yankees farm team. He was a sprinter in track, and anchored the Casady 440 relay team that held the State School Class record for a number of years. He was also an accomplished pianist, once considering a career as a concert pianist.
Layton has many hobbies and interests, which he shared with his wife of 31 very happy years, Charla. They enjoyed fly fishing, and fly tying so much they had a fly tying room added to their home. They enjoyed stocking their three-acre pond with trout each year and having friends and family out for trout fishing parties. Layton was a rabid OU fan, attending most football and basketball games.
Layton was an accomplished home chef, using his biochemical background to create interesting, most of the time delicious food. In particular, he loved southeast Asian and Mexican cuisines. Layton and Charla loved Mexico, and built a house in the mountains of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico where they spent many years together exploring the culture and the food. Layton had a gift for languages, and learned Spanish late in life after building the home in Mexico.
In addition to his wife, Layton had four children, Craig Runkle and Gretchen Runkle Nicholson, both of Norman, Lowe Runkle II, and Matthew Runkle, both of Oklahoma City. He also has four grandchildren, Max and Sam Nicholson of Norman, Lowe Runkle III, and Stella Runkle, both of Oklahoma City. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brother, Kent Runkle of Norman. Memorial Services will be held 6 p.m, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 in the Chapel of the Havenbrook Funeral Home. Arrangements for Layton and his family have been placed in the care of the Vice Family at the Havenbrook Funeral Home of Norman. Online condolences may be shared at www.havenbrookfuneralhome.com