Ralph Helm
Ralph Helm photo for the cover of Transportation Engineer May 1977

We have received the sad news that Ralph Helm, former president and chairman of Manitowoc passed away on November 8th – he was 91.

Helm played a pivotal role in the Manitowoc Crane division during the 1960s and 1970s, during which time the business saw revenues increase from $18 million in 1962 to more than $146 million. The 1980s were a tough time for the company with a deep recession and troubles in the oil and gas sector where most of its larger cranes were sold. He stepped down as chief executive in 1990 when he handed over to Fred Butler, remaining as chairman until 1993.

Helm was born on Christmas Day 1926 in Phoenix, Arizona to Percy Ralph and Maria Helm. He joined Manitowoc in 1961 as director of marketing. In 1965 he was promoted to vice president, and became chief operating officer of the crane division in 1981, and chief executive in 1982. In 1986, he replaced John West – a member of the founding family – as chief executive of the holding company, adding the role of chairman in 1988. He stepped down as CEO in 1990 and retired in 1993.

He began his career 1949 as a crane oiler with Arizona Sand and Rock Company in Phoenix. In 1952 he became a sales trainee with Depco Equipment Company in Marion, Ohio, and was promoted to sales representative for Detroit in 1957, leaving in 1961 for Manitowoc.

Ralph Helm (L) with president Ronald Reagan at a Commerce Department event honouring U.S. companies for their efforts expanding trade overseas in 1983

His wife Roberta passed away last year, but he leaves sons Robert Helm, Percy Ralph Helm III, John Helm and daughter Jane Louise Helm Sutton, along with eight grandchildren.