Posted: Thursday, October 22, 2015
It is with great sadness we pass along the information that Ralph Donaldson has passed away. Here is a nice article done by mlive, with Memorial service information.
JACKSON, MI – A Jackson racing legend and state hall-of-fame inductee died on Wednesday, Oct. 14, following a battle with cancer.
Ralph Donaldson was 85.
Donaldson, who began racing at age 19 in 1949, won his first feature event in Jackson two years later.
From there, he grabbed 144 modified and sprint car feature race wins in a 16-year career that took him to every sort of dirt and paved short track around the country and led to his 1987 induction into the Michigan Motor Sports Hall of Fame.
"Racing was his passion," said his daughter, Marcy Smith of Jackson.
That passion began as a child when Donaldson's father took him to local tracks to watch races. As a grade school student, he spent hours writing essays about and drawing pictures of race cars.
Donaldson's own racing career began in an era when race cars and racetracks were insanely unsafe by today's standards.
"When I went out on the racing circuit, I bought three uniforms," he told the Citizen Patriot in 2012. "Two to race in and one to be buried in."
During his first race, which was in Allegan, Donaldson's car spun and rolled, His safety belt broke, he was thrown 40 feet from the car and he sustained a severe leg injury, broken ribs and a head injury. He spent much of the summer in the hospital.
Donaldson was a fixture at the old Jackson Motor Speedway in Blackman Township, where he won the track championship in 1956. His total 56 feature wins there are the most there of any driver.
"It was the thing to do and the place to be on a Saturday night," he told the Citizen Patriot in 2011. "It was a wonderful experience for this old man."
Donaldson retired from racing in 1965, but his son, Denny, followed in his footsteps and won six track championships at Butler Motor Speedway and 150 feature events overall before retiring in 1991.
Grandson Derek Donaldson and great grandson Nick Nelson also still participate in the sport.
Donaldson is survived by his children, Denny Donaldson and Marcy Smith; five grandchildren; five great grandchildren; two great, great grandchildren and Dorothy May, his girlfriend of 31 years, and her family.
Cremation has taken place. A memorial service is planned for 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, at Lakeland Hills Golf Club, 5119 Page Ave. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Cascades Humane Society.
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