This is the story of Ralph’s musical history.
Inspired by his grandfather who played a button accordion, Ralph dreamed of becoming an accordion player. Encouraged by his father who was a great lover of polka music, Ralph’s dream of having his own accordion came true at the age of 13. But, ahead lay many hours of practice in hopes of becoming a good accordionist. Ralph did have 5 years of training on piano, prior to his accordion lessons. In those early years, Ralph’s father tuned in all the old-time music programs on radio. He really loved to listen to such bands as The Viking Accordion Band, The Six Fat Dutchman, Whoopee John, and many more such bands. He used to say, “Listen, Ralph, practice and someday you will be able to play like these bands.”
At the age of 17, Ralph formed his own 5 piece polka band which grew to 7 pieces. After working a few years together several of the sideman entered the military service. Ralph then decided to disband and seek work with other local bands. He joined Al Soucheck and The Five Yanks of Stoddard, WI, playing 2nd accordion in Al’s 5 piece “Cleveland Style” polka band.
Then, at the age of 22, through fellow musician and good friend Joe Formanek, Ralph auditioned with the “Whoopee John Orchestra.” The Band at the time held the title of America’s No. 1 Polka Band. (You can imagine how proud Ralph’s father was at this time.) After spending 2 years with Whoopee John, Ralph decided to come back home. Once again he started his own 8 piece orchestra playing all the ballrooms in the La Crosse, WI area including the once famed “Avalon Ballroom.”
In 1981 Ralph’s daughter Lynne teamed up with him, playing drums, harmonica, and vocals. Together they made a couple if recordings. In recent years Lynne and Willie (Ralph’s brother) joined him in recording the “Proksch Family Favorites” album. Ralph has also done several recordings using some musicians he met in Yuma, AZ, where he resided. Ralph passed away on April 27, 2008. The following is Ralph's obituary:
RALPH M. PROKSCH
STODDARD, Wis./YUMA, Ariz. Ralph M. Proksch was born in rural Stoddard to Leonard and Frieda (Baudler) Proksch on Feb. 25, 1933. He was received into our Savior's Kingdom through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism one month later. On Aug. 27, 1959. he was married to Judith A. Hundt at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in Stoddard. His soul was called home by our gracious Savior on April 27, 2008.
A musician most of his life, Ralph formed his first band at the age of 15. He was a band leader with multiple bands for the next 40 years. His most notable band appearances included playing with the Whoopee John Polka Band. Others were Al Soucheck and the Five Yanks and Uncle Ozzie's Show Band. Another was the Richie Yurkovich Band.
Ralph and Judy farmed for many years in rural Stoddard. They also ran a successful business with the Shaklee Corp. They later purchased and operated a mail transportation contracting business with their son, Robert, until their retirement in 1991. They have made their home in Yuma, AZ since 1998, where they were members of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church since 1999. In marginal health during recent years, Ralph's favorite pastimes included playing cards, fishing, and enjoying his backyard ponds.
Survivors include his wife, Judy, of Yuma; two sons, Robert of Stoddard and Thomas (Kyle) of Schoolcraft, Mich. One daughter, Lynne, of Onalaska, Wis. Also surviving are three grandchildren, Collin, Caleb and Krista Proksch of Schoolcraft. Also two brothers, Donald (Jo) and Wilbert (Sandy) of Stoddard; one sister, Elaine (Bill) Zierke of Onalaska. Also an aunt, Elsie Baudler of Onalaska; and nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at 10:a.m. Friday, May 16, at St. Matthews Lutheran Church in Stoddard. A lunch will be served following the service at the Stoddard American Legion Hall. A musical tribute will be performed by the Richie Yurkovich Band and also by Uncle Ozzie's Band.
Memorials may be directed to Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Yuma; Life Care Center, Yuma, or St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, Stoddard