Ralph Nudi, 86, a dedicated family man, business pioneer and Kenosha civic leader for six decades, passed away Saturday, March 9, after an unexpected battle with pneumonia. His final moments were exactly as he would have wanted them – surrounded by his wife and children at his winter home in Sarasota, Fla.
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But he was a son of Kenosha, and one of its greatest advocates, maintaining a home in the city all his life. Ralph had an inherent kindness and regard for people and his community, helping men and women, boys and girls, from all walks of life.
It was in Kenosha he established himself as a hard-working salesman and entrepreneur – working first for his father, then at Simmons, and after a detour to Johnson Motors in Waukegan, Ill. and several other labor-related jobs, he discovered his professional passion: helping people and working in sales.
Ralph began a career in automobile sales at Kenosha Rambler in the 1950s and was the top salesman in the United States for several years. He parlayed that success, and the strong relationships and reputation he built in the community, into launching his own dealership, Ralph Nudi AMC-JEEP, in 1978. He ran it as one of the city’s most successful dealerships until the end of the American Motors brand.
His extensive involvement in the 1980s and beyond in Downtown Kenosha as a building owner and BID board member was a large influence on removing the “walking mall” and moving the downtown area toward what it has become today. Later he co-founded Nudi Suzuki with his son Brent and continued his legacy of success while maintaining his quiet personal brand of philanthropy that was never self-serving.
A youthful love of, and talent for, sports led him to spend as much leisure time as possible as a child playing ball and spending time with his neighborhood buddies, who became lifelong friends.
He was proud of his scrapbook of athletic accomplishments while attending Lincoln and McKinley junior high schools. Ralph also spent part of one school year attending Luther Burbank Junior High in Lancaster, Calif. He also attended Kenosha (Bradford) High School.
His affection for sports motivated him to become one of Kenosha’s most successful sponsors of softball teams during the golden age of the sport in the city. He also founded the Ralph Nudi AMC-Jeep Boxing Club, which produced several Golden Gloves champions.
As passionate as he was about his work and sports, though, Ralph reserved his greatest love for his family. He was born Raffaele Moseo Nudi in Kenosha on Sept. 10, 1932, to Dominic and Mafalda (nee Via) Nudi. He had an older brother and sister raised in Italy, and two younger sisters and a brother born in Kenosha.
His marriages, to Marlene Hagedorn on April 16, 1952, and Sylvia Grasser on March 13th, 1982, gave him five children: Brent, Dominic (Mickey), Shelley, Anne and Connie.
The tragic and untimely death of Mickey in 1978 weighed heavily on Ralph’s heart and was the driving influence for his desire to mentor troubled young adults, which he spent his life doing.
After retirement from the auto industry, well into his 70s, Ralph discovered an even deeper love for animals. He would be seen for several years around Kenosha working on his real estate investments, but never unaccompanied by his golden retrievers.
He enjoyed his winters in Sarasota with his wife, living just down the street from his daughter and son-in-law. He was healthy, vibrant and full of life. His death even at 86 came as a shock to family and friends. He will be sadly missed by all.
Ralph was preceded in death by his parents; his sisters Eva Romano and Mary Smith; his son Dominic; his daughter-in-law Jerelyn, his former wife Marlene; as well as his “girls”, dogs Bella and Payton.
Ralph is survived by his loving wife Sylvia; son Brent Dominic (Julie) Nudi; daughters Shelley (John) Nudi-Rogowski; Dr. Anne Nudi (Francesco Montemurro); and Connie Desotell (Robert Weiss); his sister Joanne Nudi (Kenosha); brothers Robert Nudi (Kenosha) and Dennis Nudi (Tempe, Ariz.); and his cat, Peppie.
Also surviving are his 14 grandchildren: Ralph (Sarah) Nudi; Donald Nudi; Deanna (James) Franke; Dharma Nudi; Tyler Rogowsk; Tasha Rutchik; Corrine (Bruce) Wolf; Amber Desotell; Mason Cochran; Conner McCormick; Camryn Rauen; Cade Rauen; Kenadee Rauen; Antonio Montemurro; and 21 great grandchildren.
Visitation will be held at Proko Funeral Home on Friday March 29, from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, March 30th, with a prayer service at the funeral home at 9:45 a.m. and Mass will be celebrated at St Anthony of Padua Catholic Church (2223 51st St.) at 10:30 a.m. Interment will follow at All Saints Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests donations of one of the following of Ralph’s favorite causes:
Kenosha Forgotten Friends: www.kenoshaforgottenfriends.org
Tiny Paws: www.tinypawssmalldogrescue.org
Proko Funeral Home & Crematory
Kenosha, WI 53144
Phone: (262) 654-3533
Visit & Sign Ralph’s Online Memorial Book at: