R.A. (Ralph Albert) Apffel, Sr. died Monday, August 1, 2022 at Houston Methodist Hospital, from complications of a heart attack. He was 91. His dear wife, Selena, and their two children – Dr. Lori Apffel Smith and R.A. “Duke” Apffel, Jr. - were with him at the hospital at the time of his death.
R.A. was born on Galveston Island, October 23, 1930. He was educated at Kirwin High School in Galveston. Following graduation, he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1951-53, during the Korean War. Following his discharge from the military, R.A. worked at Monsanto Chemical Company prior to starting college and his career as an attorney. He studied pre-law at Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas; and completed law school at St Mary’s University, San Antonio. Apffel met the “love of his life”, Selena Evetts, on a blind date (actually…two blind dates!) in Galveston while she was completing her nurses training at UTMB. They married December 27, 1958. Following his graduation from law school, they returned to Galveston where R.A. began his professional career as an attorney; Selena as a Registered Nurse. They were married for almost 64 years.
Apffel’s legal career began on the Island in 1960 with the firm of Baker, Callahan, and Brady. From there, he joined the law firm of Tramonte, Apffel, Urbani, and Tramonte for 15 years before establishing a private practice specializing in family, criminal, and probate law in 1986. He remained in private practice until his death. In 1960, Apffel was admitted to the State Bar of Texas, and was proud to have been recognized in 2010 for his “50 Years of Membership in the State Bar.” Also, a long-time member of the Galveston County Bar Association, R.A. Apffel was most proud of the special honor – “Resolution of Appreciation” that he received from the Commissioner’s Court of Galveston County - recognizing his 50 years of practicing law and for his “long and faithful service to all citizens of Galveston County.”
To say that his family and his island home were “everything” to R.A. Apffel is truly an understatement. He served admirably both on the Galveston City Council, from 1969-1973, and then as Mayor of Galveston, from 1973-77. It was during this time - and because of his loyalty, devotion, and commitment to the betterment and growth of Galveston - that a new east-end Galveston Island Park was named in his honor as R.A. Apffel Park. In addition, Apffel was committed to the restoration and revitalization of downtown Galveston and the historic Strand District. He became good friends with George Mitchell -and together - they had a vision for the rebirth of downtown Galveston, as well as for new beachfront development. Working together, these two gentlemen – both from humble beginnings - not fancy, not assuming – had a vision for their beloved island home. And, the rest is history.
In addition to his fine reputation as a long-time, exemplary public servant, Apffel was equally praised by his peers in the legal profession. Even adversaries on the same case, praised him for his honesty, being “a man of his word,” as a “true gentleman”, and “as a worthy opponent, yet always a friend.”
But most important to R.A. Apffel: His family. He always made time for his two children – Lori and “Duke.” He coached his son all through Little League, Pony, Colt, and American Legion games – alongside his good friend, Frank Guisti. He never missed a high school game and always supported the O’Connell Buccaneers. He loved to go on camping trips with his entire family, and to have fun at such popular sites as the Frio or Nueces Rivers, or to spend time in Uvalde – Selena’s home town. In addition, he loved to go hunting every season in Colorado and Wyoming - with life-long best friend, Byron Evert, and his son, “Duke” Apffel; and then fishing every summer. He also loved playing golf with his friends at the Galveston Country Club, and he loved his workouts at the Galveston Health & Racquet Club – especially his Body Pump and Spin classes – every morning at 5:30 for almost 15 years. R.A. also looked forward to spending time on his property in Utopia, Texas – affectionately known as “Sight Unseen” - and actually spent many of his last weekends there.
R.A. is survived by his wife, Selena; son, R.A. “Duke” Apffel, Jr; daughter, Dr. Lori Apffel Smith; son-in-law, Dr. Perry Smith; and two adult grandchildren: Winston Smith and Riley Smith. He was pre-deceased by his parents - E.A. “Dutch” Apffel and Angelina B. Apffel; as well as his brother, Ervin Apffel, Jr.
Visitation will be held Sunday, August 7, 2022 from 5-7 PM at St. Patrick Catholic Church, 1010 35th Street in Galveston. A Rosary will follow the visitation. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Monday, August 8, 2022 at 10am at St. Patrick Catholic Church. Burial will follow at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Galveston.
Pallbearers will be Kaleb Apffel, Blake Apffel, Ross Apffel, Winston Smith, Riley Smith, Christopher Ford, Lanson Hart, and Seth Thompson. Honorary pallbearers are Eddie Janek, Sr, Judge Pete Urbani, Dr. Bill McCarron, and Bob Ford.
Contributions may be made in R.A.’s name to the Galveston Island Humane Society, 6814 Broadway, Galveston, Texas 77554; St. Patrick Catholic Church, 1010 35th Street, Galveston, Texas, 77550; or St. Jude Children’s Foundation, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN, 38105.
R.A. Apffel will be remembered for always putting his family first. He will be remembered as “the lawyer who hustled for his clients harder and faster” than any other attorney. And he will be remembered for his commitment to his clients as he “fought fearlessly and passionately” for the cases he undertook. And… that “he held nothing back in those fights.” And most eloquently, one of his peers summed it up best: “I loved and admired this smart old Galveston lawyer. And I want to be just like him… when I grow up.”
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of R.A. (Ralph Albert) Apffel, Sr., please visit our floral store.