Longtime Enterprise owner/publisher dies at 79

Nov 2, 2022

Ralph with his wife of 56 years, Claudia.
Ralph Alldredge outside the newspaper office in San Andreas, California.

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of The Calaveras Enterprise’s owner and publisher, our own guiding light, Ralph Alldredge.

Ralph cared deeply about this community and its right to a free press. He dedicated 24 years of his life to upholding the tenets of good journalism in this small yet special corner of the world. His commitment never faltered, even in the final weeks of his battle with cancer, as he led us into our next iteration.

Ralph was born in Taft, California, on July 1, 1943, and grew up in Medford, Oregon, until he was 10. He lived in Connell, Washington, until he was 17. When Ralph was 4 years old, he discovered that his grandparents had a typewriter and began to write his autobiography — an example of his self-awareness and his love of the printed word. In that spirit, only Ralph can best summarize his own remarkable life. He did just that in a 2017 bio he wrote while contemplating a political campaign.

At age 6, I lived on a farm in Oregon, where my stepfather was a herdsman. By 7, I was milking cows by hand, doing farmwork that sometimes required driving tractors or trucks and picking fruit in the orchards. When I was 10 years old, my family moved to eastern Washington, where we became homesteaders as part of the Columbia Basin Reclamation project. Between the ages of 10 and 17, I helped create a farm on land that had never been cultivated in human history. For the first year, we had no running water or power. By 15, I also began working as a hired hand for other farmers in the area, as well as a gas station attendant to earn spending money and save for college.

Because my father was killed while flying a B-36 for the Air Force, I qualified for a VA program that provided children of deceased veterans free tuition and about $100 per month while I attended the University of Washington, but I continued working for various farmers each summer to earn additional money for college. During my junior and senior years, I also earned room and board as a resident advisor in the dormitory. Upon graduation as an economics major in 1965, I received a full scholarship to Columbia Law School based upon my college record and scores on the LSAT. The summer before law school, I worked as a roustabout in the oil fields near Bakersfield. It was the highest paying job I could find. During the summer following my first year in law school, I worked as a procurement agent for Boeing in Seattle. The next two summers were spent working as an intern at San Francisco law firms.

I graduated from Columbia cum laude in 1968 and was drafted in November of that year after taking and passing the California Bar Exam. My two years in the Army were served in Atlanta as a legal clerk with responsibilities for special courts and boards at Third Army headquarters. I also supplemented my Army pay by working nights and weekends as a law clerk with a prestigious Atlanta law firm.

When I returned to San Francisco in 1970, I joined the law firm that is now known as Morrison and Foerster. In 1976, I opened my own office in San Francisco because I was disappointed with the lack of trial experience large law firms could offer. I continued my solo practice for about 20 years, trying "complex litigation" cases in San Francisco and courts throughout California, as well as in New York and other western states like Hawaii and Oregon. In 1996, I joined a small firm in the Bay Area and continued trying cases in that firm, then another larger firm until 2007, when I returned to the solo practice I still conduct.

In [1998] I also became owner/publisher of a community newspaper in Calaveras County, and have continued since then to follow two careers simultaneously. …

Ralph got into community papers because he believed in them. He grew up in a small town, and he loved that environment. He wanted to be sure that Calaveras County had the best paper he could provide. He put his heart and soul into the Enterprise, even after he moved to Washington. Ralph's early involvement with newspapers was to represent them in several of his trials, the biggest being the Manteca Bulletin trial, which was a big win for that newspaper.

In February of 1998, Ralph, along with Darell Phillips (former editor of the Manteca Bulletin) and Robert Piccinini (owner of SaveMart stores), were about to become owners of the Calaveras Enterprise. Ralph and Bob were the financial backers, and Darell would run the paper. On the day papers were to be signed, Darell drowned in a Calaveras County flood. Ralph and Bob went ahead with the purchase, with Ralph taking over the operation of the newspaper. Soon after, Ralph bought out Bob's share and became sole owner of the newspaper.

From 1998, when Ralph purchased the newspaper, until 2007, he was a long–distance publisher, remaining in the Bay Area for his law practice. In 2007, he continued his law practice, but, thanks to technological advances, was able to communicate with clients and prepare for trials from his home in Angels Camp. Eventually, he reduced his law practice in order to focus on the newspaper and enjoy all the things he loved about small town life in the Sierra foothills. Ralph's involvement in the Mark Twain Symposium with Bob Trinchero and others was one of his great joys in Angels Camp.

An avid outdoorsman, Ralph was a runner and hiker for more than 50 years and a fisherman for almost as long. He was drawn to daring sports: hang gliding, mountain climbing, scuba and free-diving, whitewater rafting, and in his early days, motorcycle riding. He lived his last two-and-a-half years at his home on 12 acres of forest and beach on Whidbey Island, Washington. It was pure joy for him. He had become involved with an environmental organization, the Northwest Straits Foundation, whose goal is to protect and restore the health of the marine resources in that area.

Ralph passed away at his home on Oct. 4, 2022. He leaves behind his 100-year-old mother, Betty Lu Metzger; three brothers and a sister; his wife of 56 years, Claudia Alldredge; three children, Cynthia Shidner, Thomas Alldredge and Hannah Morris; and six grandchildren, Matthew, Yzolde, Hero, Ella, Liam and Nora.

He also leaves behind the staff at the Enterprise, who will carry on his legacy of upright journalism in the community that he so loved.

A vigil will be held at a later date, to be announced in the Calaveras Enterprise of San Andreas, California. Members of the community are invited to write Letters to the Editor in memory of Ralph.