RIP Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, 1918-2014
These are difficult times for Bills fans. Legendary Bills quarterback Jim Kelly is suffering from an aggressive case of oral cancer, and is currently hospitalized. And there remain persistent rumors that the Bills would be sold, and/or relocate to another city with Mr. Wilson's passing.
That's a conversation for another day. Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson died Tuesday afternoon at his home in Grosse Point Shores, Michigan. He was receiving in-home hospice care, and has been unable to attend a Bills regular season game since 2010.
"This incredible man was the personification of the Buffalo Bills," team CEO Russ Brandon said in a statement. "His life was grit, determination and resolve. He was bigger than life in many ways and yet he was the everyday man, driving his Ford Taurus to the local store and greeting everyone as they called out 'Hi Ralph!' He will be greatly missed by those in our community whose lives he touched."
Wilson fought for the US Navy in World War II and remained in the Navy until 1946. Upon his return home, he took over his father's insurance business -- divesting the company in many ways to massively increase its value. He bought a minority stake in the Detroit Lions in the 1950s, but dropped the stake to found the Buffalo Bills as an AFL team in 1960. Wilson fostered fantastic success in "small-market" Buffalo, NY, building with stars like Jack Kemp and OJ Simpson.
If you want to get sentimental about Ralph Wilson, have another watch of the very moving Ralph Wilson Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech from 2009.
Wilson is survived by his wife Mary, and three daughters. Our hearts go out to the Ralph Wilson family, and we remember him well.