He was a native of Salinas, California, an agricultural town in the Central Coast, and son of Henry Van Brocklin and Roberta Van Brocklin, educators who owned a small farm.
Ralph had instilled in him from an early age the values of education, industriousness, resourcefulness and hard work, as well as the satisfaction that comes through service to others. His activities as a young man were diverse, ranging from involvement in animal husbandry through 4H to a commitment to the arts, performing in various groups on french horn and trumpet.
In 1972, Ralph entered UCLA as a pre-medical science student, and upon graduation in 1977 he was selected for the entering class in the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated from Penn in 1981, having served as national president of the American Student Dental Association in his junior year, having lobbied for students’ access to crucial loans and grants needed for those with fewer resources to attend schools in the health sciences, and also having served on the governing body of the University of Pennsylvania.
Following a one-year residency in hospital dentistry at UC San Francisco (1981-1982), Dr. Van Brocklin began his residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery at UT Memphis (1982-1985). On the rare occasions that his duties allowed him a weekend off, he made trips to East Tennessee to fish and backpack. What he found in East Tennessee—the beauty of the mountains, the friendliness of the people and the livability of the region—led him to choose Johnson City as the new home where he would live, practice and raise a family.
Ralph served on the Johnson City Board of Education from 2007-2011, was elected to the City Commission in 2011, and served as Mayor of Johnson City from 2013-2015. He led numerous initiatives during his time in public office, including the revitalization of downtown Johnson City, the Tweetsie Trail and the new Washington County-Johnson City Animal Shelter building. He also held positions on the Animal Control Board and Johnson City Development Authority, among many others past and present. He attended First Christian Church and Buffalo Ridge Baptist Church.
Ralph was always looking ahead, planting seeds for the future in the schools and in the city, with particular focus on community beautification, economic development, and education. His boot prints will be seen for years to come, as he has been instrumental in changing the landscape of the adopted city he loved so much.
Those left to cherish Ralph’s memory include his loving wife of 29 years, Deborah Erwin Van Brocklin; his sons, Hunter Van Brocklin and Mark Loyd (Tammie); his sisters, Diane Olson (Jim) and Jamie Van Brocklin; his brother, Frank Van Brocklin (Christine); several nieces, nephews, great-nieces and nephews; and innumerable special friends also survive.
The Van Brocklin family will greet friends to share memories on Friday, September 14, 2018 from 11:00 am until 2:00 pm, and again from 4:00 pm until 7:00 pm in the Sunset Room of Tetrick Funeral Services, Johnson City. A Celebration of Ralph’s Life will be held at 11:00 am on Saturday the 15th at the funeral home with Pastor Jody Jenkins and Mr. Ethan Magness, Minister officiating. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a donation to your favorite Johnson City/Washington County charity.
Memories and condolences may be shared at www.tetrickfuneralhome.com . Tetrick Funeral Services, 3001 Peoples Street, Johnson City TN 37604 (423-610-7171) is honored to serve the Van Brocklin family.