Dorothy Jean Ward and Ralph William Caulkins were married in the Messiah Baptist Church in Chicago, Ill., on July 11, 1946. The Ceres couple celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary with extended family and friends on property that is well steeped with Caulkins family blood, sweat and tears.
A theme of the celebration was a statement made by Ralph and Dorothy in 2002 noting that to be a Caulkins is to “grow where God planted us.” This rings true given that Ralph’s paternal grandparents, William O. and Mary E. Caulkins, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on the Caulkins farm in 1934.
The celebration occurred next door to the rural Roeding Road home where Ralph and Dorothy live and where Ralph was born to Ellis J. and Merle V. Caulkins on June 15, 1925. The property was once better known as the Smyrna Park Colony.
Planting, growing, and harvesting have been an integral part of the couple’s life together on the family farm. Ralph’s father, Ellis J. Caulkins, began farming around about 1920 the same parcel following his return from France after his service during World War I in 1918 and 1919. Ellis purchased his farm from his parents next door. A century later, Ralph’s sons continue to plant, grow, and harvest the same land, including the sixth generation on the Caulkins’ farm. Ralph farmed the land for many years and still participates.
He and Dorothy married followed his service in the Navy from 1943 to 1946 during World War II. He worked as a teacher and for many years and as a bookkeeper before retiring early to farm full-time. Dorothy, in addition to mothering their five children, worked for the Ceres Unified School District at Ceres High as a teacher’s aide for Special Education students for 18 years. She also led Bible Study Fellowship for many years in Modesto. For decades Ralph and Dorothy and extended family worshiped at the Evangelical Free Church in Turlock, where they were leaders of the AWANA youth program for decades. They still worship at the church – now called Crossroads – where Ralph also played violin for many years in the church orchestra. Ralph, 94, and Dorothy, 92, continue to participate in church, farm, and family activities as able. Longevity in marriage and life is a Caulkins’ family blessing and tradition – Ralph’s parents celebrated 66 years together and Dorothy’s parents, William and Mae Ward, for 65 years.
The Caulkins have five children – Paul Caulkins, of Texas, Norman Caulkins, Wayne Caulkins, and Phillip Caulkins, all of Ceres, and Mary Jean Caulkins of Manteca. They are also the grandparents of 12 and 19 great grandchildren, many who live locally.