Ralph (Rathgeber) Meeker

Ralph (Rathgeber) Meeker (1920 - 1988)

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Ralph Meeker formerly Rathgeber
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesotamap
Ancestors ancestors
[sibling(s) unknown]
[spouse(s) unknown]
Died in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, Californiamap
Profile last modified | Created 9 Jun 2018
This page has been accessed 81 times.


Ralph was son of Ralph Robert Rathgeber and Magnhild Haaivg, born 21 November 1920 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After his parents divorced, his mother married Dewey Meeker, and Ralph later took his stepfather's last name and became known as Ralph Meeker.

Ralph grew up in Chicago. For a time, he lived with his grandmother.

He attended Northwestern University, where he studied musical composition and acting. Ralph was a member of the Northwestern University Men's Glee Club. He graduated from Northwestern in 1942.[1]

On 10 December 1942, Ralph enlisted in the United States Navy and served until his release 10 April 1943. [2]

In June 1945, Ralph was living at the Bryson Hotel at the time of his return from Europe on a tour with the USO.

Ralph was married three times. His first wife was Salome Jens, whom he married in New York on 20 July 1964. They were divorced December 1966. In 1970, Ralph married Colleen Rose Neary in New York. They divorced 7 July 1981. His third wife was Millicent ... her maiden name is unknown.

Ralph had a stellar career on Broadway, starring in the original production of "Picnic," for which he won the Theatre World Award for his performance. Later, he became well-known for his work in both film and television. His obituary, which follows, provides more details on his career.

After suffering a series of strokes, beginning in 1980, Ralph was forced to retire from acting.[3]

Ralph died 5 August 1988 at Woodland Hills, after suffering a heart attack. He was 67 years old. [4][5]His wife, Millicent, survived him.

Ralph Meeker, Stage and Screen Character Actor

"Ralph Meeker, whose stage and movie roles ranged from disillusioned drifters such as Hal in "Picnic" to the hard-bitten Mike Hammer in "Kiss Me Deadly," died yesterday of a heart attack."

"Meeker, 67, died at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, said spokeswoman Jean Ferris. He was admitted to the hosptial in September 1987, Ferris said."

"Longtime friend Jim Bacon said Meeker had suffered a series of strokes over the past eight years."

"born Ralph Rathgeber in Minneapolis on November 21, 1920, Meeker appeared in more than 50 movies, dozens of Broadway plays and starred for two years in his own television show, "Not for Hire."

"His move roles included both leads and character parts, usually cocky and often with a mean or cowardly streak. Some of the movies Meeker appeared in included "Brannigan" with John Wayne, "The Naked Spur" with Jimmy Stewart and "The Dirty Dozen. Other movie credits included "Kiss Me Deadly" in 1955, "Teresa," his first movie, and "Paths of Glory."

"The theatre was Meeker's first love. Before 'Picnic,' he starred on Broadway in such plays as 'The Doughgirls,' 'Strange Fruit' and 'Cyrano de Bergerac,'" Bacon said.

"He also appeared with Henry Fonda in the stage production of "Mister Roberts" and replaced Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire."

"Meeker began his acting career at Northwestern University."

"He was considered an actor's actor by his peers," Bacon said." (Associated Press) [6]


  1. U.S. School Yearbooks Index, Ralph Meeker, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.
  2. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010.
  3. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, devotes a page to Ralph Meeker and his career along with additional biographical information.
  4. U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, Ralph Meeker, birth 21 November 1920 at Minneapolis, MN; death August 1988; father Dewey W. Meeker; mother: Magnhild Haavig. Please note that Dewey Meeker was Ralph's stepfather, not his father.
  5. Find a Grave Memorial for Ralph Meeker.
  6. Obituary: San Francisco Chronicle, Saturday, August 6, 1988, San Francisco, CA, page 48.

More Genealogy Tools

Sponsored Search

Searching for someone else?
First: Last:

No known carriers of Ralph's ancestors' Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA have taken yDNA or mtDNA tests and no close relatives have taken a 23andMe, AncestryDNA, or Family Tree DNA "Family Finder" test.

Have you taken a DNA test for genealogy? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.

Images: 2
Ralph Meeker
Ralph Meeker

Ralph Meeker in the Broadway production of "Picnic."
Ralph Meeker in the Broadway production of


Ralph is 27 degrees from Robin Helstrom, 29 degrees from Katy Jurado and 26 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

R  >  Rathgeber  |  M  >  Meeker  >  Ralph (Rathgeber) Meeker