Ralph Umbarger

Ralph Umbarger

Click HERE to download Ralph’s complete biography with photographs (PDF file).


Ralph Stewart Umbarger, 93 of Redmond, WA passed away peacefully on July 2, 2015. He is survived by his loving wife Ildiko, stepson Attila Laszlo, and step grandchildren Viktor and Erik Laszlo. Ralph was born in Burlington, Washington on March 14, 1922 to Frank Harlton Umbarger and May Elizabeth Joyce and had two older siblings, Frank and Loren. Eventually his family moved to Everett, WA and in 1940 he graduated from Everett High School.


ralph2Ralph’s first job was at the Boeing Company where he was a typist making $117 a month; later a promotion as an Expediter on the B-17 program raised his salary to $210 a month. (And as he would always point out, he wasn’t very good at typing anyway.)
In 1943 Ralph was drafted by the U.S Military but the required physical examination found traces of tuberculosis. He was classified as “4F,” which meant he would not be allowed to serve. This condition also forced him to leave Boeing.


Because Ralph was always interested photography (he organized the first camera club in high school,) he joined Rarig Motion Pictures, a ralph3small local film production company, in 1944. It was there that he learned the film production craft and would become staff cameraman for most of the productions over the next 12 years. One major forest products company was so pleased with his work, they made him head photographer on their next corporate image film—a year-long project that kept Ralph busy from Spring through Winter dodging adverse weather patterns while filming numerous Pacific Northwest forestry scenes.


Ralph entered the freelance market in 1956 as a photographer and over the next 8 years worked for Weyerhaeuser, Cole & Webber Advertising, Richland Oil, Alcoa, Volkswagen and others. Of particular interest was an assignment that took him to Alaska where he filmed one of the David Brinkley Journal episodes.

Leaving the freelance market in 1962, Ralph was hired by King Broadcasting Company to start a documentary unit. While there, he worked on a variety of things—from news with Charles Herring, to programs on the plight of northwest migrant workers, to world trade which involved a trip to Europe covering 5 countries. This experience eventually led to a position as Production Manager at King Screen Productions, a new venture for King Broadcasting (today known as King 5 News.)


In 1969, Ralph left Seattle to become part Owner and General Manager of Alpha Cine Services Ltd. in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, a film processing business that was the first to process color film in Western Canada. The lab processed the negative and work print for Bob Altman’s “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” and many other feature films. Other clients included CBS television, the National Film Board of Canada, and local film and television commercial producers. After successfully building the company from a small operation of 5 people to 40, Ralph sold his interest and returned to Seattle in 1979.

It was then that Ralph began to apply his many years of business and film production experience to Boeing’s in-house motion picture and television unit. Ralph was assigned the lead position at Boeing’s Everett plant specifically to produce progress report films on the new 767 Program. A major component of this project was the production of time lapse films on the 767 and later, the 747. These films continue to be shown worldwide. In 1987, Ralph retired.


In 1981, after many years as a bachelor and without children, Ralph married his wife of 34 years, Ildiko Laszlo. Her son, Attila, eventually married and had two sons, Viktor and Erik, whom Ralph adored. During retirement, Ralph enjoyed writing, traveling, sipping martinis, and spending time with his family and friends. Even to the end, Ralph maintained his humorous and creative spirit. And at his request, at a private family gathering, Ralph’s ashes will be scattered over the waters of the San Juan Islands.


2 Responses to “Ralph Umbarger”

  • Tandy Hennings says:

    Dear Ildi, Thank you for your voice message – I am glad to read this interesting obituary, as I learned many things about Ralph that I did not know. May he rest in peace. Hugs to you.

  • Graeme Bregani says:

    April 19, 2021 is the 30th anniversary of my leaving Alpha-Cine, Vancouver, the company Ralph started.
    I worked there for exactly 20 years.

    I joined Alpha, and Ralph, on April 19, 1971. I believe I was the 7th employee.
    Through all the years I worked for Ralph he treated us all with helpful courtesy.
    There were many growing problems, and we sweated our way towards solutions.
    Ralph is my idea of an ideal boss. He saw all, but withheld judgement until all the facts were in.
    He watched my back.
    It was a poor day for us all when he retired from Alpha-Cine.
    I continued until 1991, but it was never the same.

    The joy of making motion pictures was evident in all we did, with Ralph.
    I am glad to read of his adventures after Alpha. I’m glad to have known him, and call him ” the boss”.
    Thank you Ralph.

    Graeme Bregani
    Saturna Island BC

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