OFFICER RALPH H. AHNER – EOW: 9-9 1932
By: Officer Mike Severance #2866
During the hours of darkness on September 9, 1932, Mr. C. R. Marquardt was driving his automobile southbound on 4th Avenue S. Marquardt stated he slowed to make a left turn at S. Horton St., and had signaled with his arm. As Marquardt started to turn, an SPD motorcycle, driven by Officer Ralph H. Ahner, 32, crashed into the driver’s side of his car. Officer Ahner had also been southbound on 4th Avenue S. The officer was taken to Virginia Mason Hospital with multiple fractures including a skull fracture. SPD Captain Charles E. Dolphin stated Officer Ahner had been chasing a speeding car at the time of the accident. While hospitalized, Officer Ahner’s condition was improving, but it suddenly took a turn for the worse. He died at 1:00 a.m. on September 13, 1932. He was survived by his widow, Florence, a stepson, Earl, and several siblings including his brother, Ted, a Seattle Police Officer, and another brother, Albert.
Officer Ahner’s funeral was held on September 15, 1932 at the Bonney-Watson Chapel. His remains were cremated. An inquest ruled the accident was an “accidental collision while the deceased was chasing a traffic violator”.
Ralph Ahner’s partner at that time was Officer Ellsworth Cordes. He was killed in the line of duty less than four months later when his police motorcycle collided with a City streetcar at 1st Avenue S. and S. Horton St. on December 31, 1932.
Ralph’s brother, Ted, attained the rank of Captain and was Chief of the SPD Traffic Division. He died from leukemia in 1951, one month shy of his 25th anniversary with the Seattle Police Department.
Ralph Herbert Ahner was born on August 8, 1899 in Wingdale, NY. Records show him living in Seattle in 1910 at the age of 10. When he registered for the draft in 1918, he was working as a “blacksmith helper”. It is unknown when he married Florence, but he was employed as a mechanic for many years before he was commissioned as a Seattle Police Officer on October 14, 1930. At the time of his death, the family lived at 2321 14th Avenue S. Florence Ahner died in 1950. Ralph’s brother, Albert, married, and had a daughter, Grace. John Murphy, a grandson of Grace lives in California.
In 1932, the population of Seattle was 388,672. The Seattle Police Department had 684 sworn personnel. Police Headquarters was at 4th and Yesler.
In May 1998, Officer Ralph Herbert Ahner was one of forty Seattle Police Officers, killed between 1881 and 1977, who were posthumously awarded the Washington Law Enforcement Medal of Honor. A sworn member of SPD had been tasked with locating surviving families of our Fallen, and he had from 1995 to 1998 to do it. He managed to locate four surviving families who attended the 1998 presentation ceremony. After 1998, the Department made no effort to locate surviving families of the other thirty-six officers. Officer Ahner’s medal gathered dust at the Seattle Police Department for more than 15 years. At a ceremony on January 30, 2014, twenty surviving families of our 1998 Medal of Honor recipients finally received the officers’ medals. Officer Ahner’s Medal of Honor was presented to John Murphy, a great-grandson of Officer Ahner’s brother, Albert.