Ralph M. Vitale Sr., a retired heating and plumbing contractor, died Jan. 11 of lung cancer at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. He was 81.
The son of Joseph Vitale, a superintendent with the city's water department, and Mary Vitale, a homemaker, Ralph Mario Vitale Sr. was born in Baltimore and raised on Kennedy Avenue.
After graduating from vocational school, Mr. Vitale served in the Navy from 1951 to 1955 as a pipe fitter. He was discharged with the rank of petty officer.
He had worked with the city water department before establishing Vitale Plumbing & Heating in 1962. He and his wife, the former Audrey J. Downes, who managed the business, sold it and retired in 2008.
His professional memberships included the Maryland Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors.
The 50-year Parkville resident enjoyed reading, gardening and boating aboard "Ralph's Raft," a 32-foot Seaway Express Cruiser. For 22 years, he had been a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, where he served with search-and-rescue patrols.
Mr. Vitale was a Boston terrier fancier and had handled his own dogs in obedience trials. He had been a member of the board of the Boston Terrier Club of Maryland.
He was a longtime communicant of St. Isaac Jogues Roman Catholic Church, where he had been an usher. He was also a member of the Knights of Columbus Council 5085.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at his church, 9215 Old Harford Road, Parkville.
In addition to his wife of 59 years, Mr. Vitale is survived by two sons, Ralph M. Vitale Jr. of Perry Hall and Tony Vitale of Carney; three daughters, Patricia Vitale-Smith of Monkton, Gina Messersmith of Phoenix, Baltimore County, and Marcia Pycha of Baldwin; a brother, Dr. William J. Vitale of Mays Chapel; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.