Ralph E. Batalla, a longtime resident of Springs, died of a heart attack in the yard of his house on Locust Drive during the snowstorm of Jan. 21. He was a “very young 84,” his niece, Teri Valentine, said in an email, and had not been ill.
Mr. Batalla, known as Al, was born in New York City on Sept. 25, 1929, to Raphael Batalla and the former Carmen Menedez. After graduating from high school, Mr. Batalla attended business college for two years, then became an accountant.
In the 1970s, he moved to the South Fork with his life partner, George Fleming.
The two had met at a bar in New York City and quickly became companions. They felt a comfort and ease in the growing, close-knit gay community on the South Fork during that time, according to longtime friend, Richard Kresberg.
Once here, he changed careers, tapping into his people skills as he worked in various retail and restaurant settings. He worked at Caldor’s, managing their tobacco section, then took a job at Noell’s County Kitchen. Eventually, he began working in the restaurant business. He worked as a host and maitre d’hotel at J. G. Melon in Bridgehampton along with his partner, Mr. Fleming. It was there that Mr. Kresberg met the two.
“They had an amazing relationship,” Mr. Kresberg said.
When he was not working, Mr. Kresberg said, Mr. Batalla had a passion for shopping. “All the shopkeepers knew him,” he said.
Soon after Mr. Kresberg bought Provisions in Sag Harbor in 1996, he hired Mr. Batalla. He was very popular with the customers. “He was an incredible character, he had an amazing personality.” Mr. Batalla continued to work there until late spring of last year.
After Mr. Fleming died in 2005, friends encouraged Mr. Batalla to meet someone else, possibly even live with someone else, but he declined.
Mr. Batalla loved his nieces and nephews, and his extended family was close-knit.
He is survived by his sister, Carmen Downs of Venice, Fla., as well as several nieces, nephews, and grandnieces and grandnephews.
Mr. Batalla was cremated. A memorial service will be held in the near future, and information about it is to be posted on the Provisions website.
Memorial contributions have been suggested to one of Mr. Batalla’s favorite charities, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis 38105; the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22718, Oaklahoma City, Okla. 73123, or the American Heart Association, P.O. Box 3049, Syracuse 13220.
“He had a long and rich life,” Mr. Kresberg said of his friend.