Historian Ralph Pfingsten Dies

Historian and author Ralph A. Pfingsten, 81, died on March 25 (2021).

Mr. Pfingsten was the author of The History of the Ravenna Arsenal, which was published in 2009 by the Northern Ohio Railway Museum.

He gave a program about the railroad operations at the arsenal during the June 2011 meeting of the Akron Railroad Club.

During his program, Mr. Pfingsten noted that the site of the arsenal was chosen because it was between mainlines of the Erie and Baltimore & Ohio railroads.

The arsenal itself had 130 miles of railroad track within its borders and some workers rode commuter trains to their jobs there.

A longtime member of NORM, Mr. Pfingsten served on its board of directors from 1990 to 2015 and received a lifetime achievement award from the museum in 2011.

Mr. Pfingsten also served on the board of directors of the Midwest Railway Preservation Society between 2000 and 2005 and on the board of the West Park Historical Society between 2005 and 2015.

Aside from rail operations Mr. Pfingsten had an interest in salamanders and had searched for them all over Ohio.

Much of this work occurred between 1965 and 2015 when he was a field biologist/herpetologist who collected 15,000 amphibian and reptile records from 84 of 88 Ohio counties and over two-thirds of Ohio’s 1,362 townships.

In 1988 he served as senior editor of Salamanders of Ohio and in 2013 as senior editor of Amphibians of Ohio.

He received the Ohio Naturalist Award from the Ohio Biological Survey in 2013.

Much of his work on amphibians and reptiles was performed for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and various park districts.

Between 1985 and 2015, Mr. Pfingsten was a research associate at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

He was co-author of the 2003 work Ohio Salamander Atlas.

His other published works included From Rockport to Westpark, a history of early Rockport Township and the community of West Park.

Its publication led to the formation of the West Park Historical Society of which he was president between 2014 and 2015.

He was a co-author of Cleveland’s West Side, Then and Now (2013); Rails Through West Park (2014); and One Minute to Puritas Springs Park (2011).

After graduating from Cleveland’s John Marshall High School, Mr. Pfingsten earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1962 from Wittenberg University and a Master of Arts degree from Kent State University in 1966.

He worked as a high school science teacher in Cleveland between 1962 and 1990.

He is survived by his wife Joan (nee Myers) Pfingsten; a daughter, Laura J. Weber; a son Erik A. Pfingsten;  a brother, Earle Pfingsten; and a sister, Joanne Germuska. He was preceded in death by a brother, Harry Pfingsten.

A celebration of life will be held at a later time. Arrangements are being made by A. Ripepi and Sons Funeral Home, in Middleburg Heights.

Memorials made be made to the Northern Ohio Railway Museum or the Nature Conservancy at support.nature.org.

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