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Sponsored By:

Ratzlaff, Wallace “Wally” Lee

Sponsored by:

(10/20/36 – 2/12/24 – Eternity)
Wallace (Wally) Lee Ratzlaff was born at home on October 20, 1936 in Winton California. He was the youngest of three children (Evelyn, Leland & Wallace) born to Ben and Ethel Ratzlaff.

His years growing up were rich with the closeness of family and many beloved cousins that doubled as best friends!

He grew up working hard with his family in the peach orchards and on the ranch. And from a very early age, Wally pursed a God-given love of electronics and communications, building mail-order radio kits and components. Wally used to say he was “born with electrons in his blood”!

Although Wally experienced the tragic loss of his father and then older sister at a young age, he always had the God-given gift of optimism and a playful, childlike heart!

Wally graduated from Livingston high school; took courses in electronics at Modesto Junior College; received his FCC certification in communications; and served in the USAF Reserves/California Air National Guard specializing in radio communications.

Starting in his teen years, Wally pursued his love of wireless communications through the hobby of amateur radio, raising in license status to General Class with an FCC call sign of W6FEJ. He continued his love of Amateur Radio (‘Ham Radio’) throughout his life, including building and providing/maintaining infrastructure equipment for his local club, who comprised many of his closest friends in the valley and up in the hills.

In 1968 Wally married the love of his life, Carolyn Louise Smith, in Atwater, CA. They both had been given grace to wait for God’s choice…and the Lord blessed them ABUNDANTLY in a marriage of more than 55 years!

In 1968 they built a home on Wally’s family ranch and moved in as newlyweds. Carolyn worked as a cosmetologist in a salon and Wally worked as a two-way radio communications technician for Mobile Communications in Merced. Wally also drove A.M. school bus routes (which he began at age 18) for Livingston High School District, and then later Atwater High School District; and in his ‘spare time’ he continued to repair televisions and install towers and antennas (as he had done for many years) for relatives, friends, neighbors, etc.

In 1970 Wally and Carolyn welcomed their firstborn daughter, Kelly Lee. Kelly shares in the same clever and funny ‘wit’ that Wally is known for.

In 1972 Wally and Carolyn welcomed their second daughter, Heidi Lee. She, like her father, has a cheery nature and loves to talk! Heidi and Wally shared in the business of communications, which in later years led to the Lord’s gift to Wally of Jeff Perlewitz as his son-in-law.

Wally and Carolyn always partnered together, working hard to love and serve others. In 1979, this spirit of partnership led them to move the family to the Sierra foothills (“God’s country” as Wally called it) to start their business Columbia Communications & Avionics, which later evolved to Columbia Communications, Inc. They have worked with many treasured and beloved partners & staff members along the ongoing journey.

Wally and Carolyn worked VERY hard together through both tough and abundant times, to grow both a family and a business successfully!

Since 1979, Wally has been a pioneering force in engineering and supporting wireless communications serving the Sierra Foothills communities, including public safety, education and private industry!

Through long hours and unwavering commitment, Wally rode in helicopters, hiked miles through snow, and even rode mules – anything needed so that those serving and protecting others could communicate!

Wally and Carolyn are so proud of the present staff of Columbia Communications, Inc. who continue to serve the Foothill communities with that same standard and representation.

Wally was active for many years serving through the Sonora Lyons Club, where he & Carolyn also made many cherished friends.
Wally lived this life as a GENEROUS man of FAITH, joyful and funny (and sometimes onery).

Wally is WEALTHY in God’s gifts of family, as well as all those treasured friends who were family to him.
Wally’s ‘FATHER’S HEART’ covered, protected, provided for, and loved many, far beyond his two daughters and son-in-law!
Wally is a man whose true citizenship has always been in the Kingdom of God, and as of February 12th, 2024, Heaven is where he now resides!

You are warmly invited to celebrate the life and homegoing to heaven of Wally

Friday, April 12th
1:30 p.m.
Sierra Bible Church
15171 Tuolumne Rd.
Sonora, CA

You are also invited to join the family at 1:00 p.m., joyfully worshipping the Lord in music and song.

**Because Wally loved life, in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Foothill Pregnancy Center at

  • Date of Death: 02/12/2024
  • Age: 87
  • Residence: Sonora, CA
  • Celebration of Life: Friday, April 12th 1:30 p.m. Sierra Bible Church 15171 Tuolumne Rd. Sonora, CA