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lives lived

Ralph Wilson Black: Generous. Respected. Family man. Accountant. Born Oct. 25, 1931, in Moncton, N.B.; died March 15, 2018, in Moncton, N.B, from complications associated with a bowel obstruction; aged 86.

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Ralph Wilson Black.Picasa/The Globe and Mail

Ralph grew up in Moncton and lived there his entire life. He loved baseball and Irene – “his bride” (he called her that his entire life). They married in 1954. Ralph and his friends would pass Irene on their way to school as she stood at the bus stop on her way to work. They never spoke, but Ralph did notice her – eventually asking a friend how to get in touch with that pretty young lady they saw every day. In 2004, they celebrated their 50th anniversary with their two sons, David and Brian, by watching his beloved Red Sox win Game 1 of the World Series.

After high school, Ralph studied accounting through the Queen’s University correspondence program and was admitted to the New Brunswick Institute of Chartered Accountants in 1958.

Ralph was scrupulously honest and always put his clients first. When head office once forced him to increase his hourly rates, he made up for it by cutting the number of hours he billed. When one of his clients was struggling to get his construction business off the ground, Ralph accompanied him to the bank, explained the numbers and when a banker still seemed concerned, Ralph said he’d sign the bond himself. Suddenly, the bank was on board. Another client bought Ralph and Irene tickets to Bermuda after he put in long hours during tax season. There aren’t many stories like that in accountancy. Ralph had a drawer full.

In fact, it was this dedication to clients that also exposed his weak spot: One Friday evening, Ralph arrived home to find his house full of guests. He’d forgotten the party to celebrate his and Irene’s anniversary.

Ralph gave to his community throughout his life in both time and resources. His organizational skills, diplomatic touch and accounting acumen were valuable on boards and fundraising campaigns. But his favourite thing was to go door-to-door to call on donors. He worked with the Moncton Hospital, the YMCA, the Salvation Army, St. George’s Anglican Church and the provincial nursing association. In recognition of his work, Ralph received the Order of Moncton in 2010.

Late in his career, Ralph was made auditor-general of New Brunswick in 1993. During his four-year term, he moved the office toward greater accountability, with a steely willingness to challenge the powerful. One time, a cabinet minister phoned Ralph at home when he thought he was being too hard on the premier.

Ralph also dealt with death threats when he took on a special audit of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation. RWB, as his staff sometimes referred to him, was a popular boss. He was first in every morning and always had the coffee on; when he saw the sorry state of the office kitchen, he purchased a new fridge and microwave from his own funds. Such was the warmth and influence of Ralph W. Black that he was hard to forget. No wonder his retirement cake played off his initials: Really Wonderful Boss. Ralph was the wisest and most generous man I have known.

Brent White is Ralph’s colleague and friend.

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