Ralph and Rose Counter knew well the strain poverty could place on a family. The Sioux Falls couple spent hours volunteering for church and community organizations and saw those struggles manifested in their work with homeless families, in regular visits to prisoners and in seeing young children unable to afford Catholic education. When Rose Counter died in 2003, her husband, Deacon Ralph Counter, knew just what to do to honor her memory. He worked with the Catholic Community Foundation for Eastern South Dakota to establish an endowment for the benefit of St. Lambert and O’Gorman High School students.
“Rose knew how important Catholic education was in the life of a young person who did not have much in their life,” said Andrew Bartell, Director of Planned Giving, with the Catholic Community Foundation.
Each year, students at both schools get help with tuition, thanks to the generosity of the Counters. Ralph Counter died in August, 2016. Funding from his estate also went into the endowment. The Counters were married in 1960 and lived in eastern Sioux Falls. Ralph was a U.S. Navy veteran who worked 33 years as an on-the-road salesman for the P.K. Wrigley Co. He also was a deacon. Ordained in 1984, he served at St. Lambert Parish until his retirement in 2006. Rose Counter gained great satisfaction helping those in need. In the 1960s, Rose was honored by Sioux Falls Mayor M.E Schirmer with a Citizen’s Award for
“sharing and caring for humankind.”
Bartell said when Rose died, Ralph wanted to do something to honor his wife and the values she embodied. “He knew making it possible to send a few more kids to Catholic school every year would be something that would have warmed her heart” Bartell said. Through his work at St. Lambert Parish and School, Ralph Counter was aware of tuition assistance endowments that others had set up through the Catholic Community Foundation, Bartell said. “He knew the benefit to the pastor and principal of knowing the distribution was coming every year, so they could confidently accept students who had no way of ever paying tuition.” When asked by Fr. John Rutten how he might characterize Ralph Counter’s life in his eulogy, Deacon Leon Cantin said he offered this observation of his humble, caring friend: “He always flew under the radar. He did a lot of things. But he wasn’t noticed too much and didn’t want to be noticed.”