The Story of Ralph

The Story of Ralph

In honor of Hammer’s 100th anniversary and NER’s 50th anniversary, we have published Legacies, a special anniversary magazine, celebrating our history, the people we have supported, and those who have made our mission possible all these years. Here is one of the featured stories:

Ralph Rosenvold was a little fellow with eyes filled with merriment and good nature with a smile that cracked his round, jolly face. In a very special way, he was a symbol of Hammer around Wayzata, endearing himself to people for almost 65 years. Every day of the year, Ralph could be seen raising and lowering the American flag on campus. He was proud to mow the lawn, shovel snow, tend the garden, wash the dishes, do repair work with the maintenance team, and grocery shop. 

“Big Shot,” was Ralph’s nickname. Was that because he was one of the very first students to move into the Hammer School? Or was it because Reuben Lindh, his brother-in-law, a strong advocate for people with disabilities, founded MARC (which later became ARC) in 1947. Ralph helped Hubert Humphrey dedicate the new dormitory, led the Boy Scout troop at Hammer School and was an active swimmer in the pool. He loved to entertain through his music and playing the organ and spoons (or “bones”). Or maybe they called him Big Shot because he was the hardest working person on campus. 

Ralph volunteered at the Long Lake Nursing Home, shoveled snow on Lake Street in Wayzata, and bundled up newspaper whenever there was a paper drive. He bowled with the senior citizen league in Minnetonka with a high score of 177. Whenever Ralph was out in the community he made a point of greeting everyone. Passersby were guaranteed a good day with Ralph’s friendly, “Hello!” Ralph participated in the James J. Hill Parade every year. He was greeted with big smiles and waves from all of his friends in town. In 1982, the Sun Sailor newspaper recognized Ralph as a super senior citizen and thanked Hammer for giving the community the blessing of “living outside itself.” 

Ralph was one of Alvina Hammer’s very first students. His family paid $10 per week for him to attend the original school on Humbolt Avenue in Minneapolis. He would walk from the Lindh’s home over two miles away to attend daily. He moved to the Wayzata home with Alvina in 1929. Ralph achieved what many people could not. His love for people and acceptance of everyone he met is his legacy which lives on throughout the Hammer community today. 

In 2000, when Hammer moved into new offices, we developed a legacy icon, named Ralph, to honor this long-time friend who embodies the mission of living life to the fullest. His spirit and this legacy represent individuals with differing abilities, who thrive in their communities living the life they deserve with the compassionate care we provide. Ralph lived a joyful life at Hammer and still inspires us all to reach toward the sky and strive for all that is possible.


Reach for Ralph, our annual fundraiser, invites the community to gather and celebrate all that Ralph stood for. Since the first event in 2010, Hammer has raised almost $3 million to support people served by Hammer & NER. The gold statues are given as honorary gifts to our strong supporters: volunteers, staff, and donors. If you have a Ralph statue you know you are part of our family, extended.


The Legacies magazine is being distributed to all those on our Discoveries mailing list. If you would like to receive a copy of Legacies and/or be added to our Discoveries distribution list, please email barbara.brandt@hammer.org. 

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