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Max Henry Ranft , Age: 93
March 06, 1929 -- June 23, 2022

Max Henry Ranft of Park Ridge, Illinois, passed away on Thursday, June 23, 2022. He was born on March 6, 1929, the second son to Rose Josephine Veith and Max Herman Ranft, German immigrants.

In grammar school he shied away from the tool-and-die trade of his father and older brother Frank to pursue drawing. In third grade, he won an art lesson, bussed himself downtown, but disliked his first class. He left and wandered into a life-drawing class down the hall, causing the naked model to scream – a story he enjoyed telling well into his eighties. 

He studied at the American Academy of Art where he was an apprentice of Louis Grell.  He became a serious student of art, interrupted by service in the US Army during the Korean War. His plans to study art in Germany after his service were thwarted when his brother Walter died in a car accident at age nineteen.  Instead, he came home to Chicago to help his parents and his youngest brother Hans, who had Down Syndrome. 

In 1962, he married Dorothy (nee Ballo), one of his classmates at The Art Institute, and became known as a church muralist, spending many hours on scaffolds in churches around the Midwest.

After the birth of his first two children, Kate and Max, he joined J. Walter Thompson in 1973 where he enjoyed many years as a commercial artist. He also worked freelance for John Walter, contributing illustrations for War Cry magazine, children’s readers, and countless religious illustrations, enlisting the help of family, friends, and neighbors to dress up as biblical figures so he could get the pose just right.  He also illustrated The Witch Book.  In 1974 he and Dorothy moved to Park Ridge, and their third child Anthony arrived soon after. 

Max was an accomplished painter of landscapes and portraits, as well as a life-drawing instructor at the American Academy and the Palette and Chisel where he influenced many students over the years.   

But to focus solely on his art is to miss a side of him that was equally rich and more dear.  To call him a renaissance man is not entirely right, but he was certainly a man from an earlier time, for he believed in ideals that were more rare in his own era: craftsmanship, beauty, apprenticeship, hospitality, and classical music, particularly Wagner.

He never went to college, but he was widely read in philosophy.  He also read the Russians along with Thomas Mann, H.L. Menken, and Thomas Wolfe.  He held court at the dinner table, engaging his family and guests in unwinnable discussions about history, art, music, writing, and politics.  He loved nature, particularly birds.  He enjoyed his beer and insisted the first sip should always be done with eyes closed.  He ended holidays with ceremonial shooters of Jäger and Asbach.  He was resolute.  He was at times ornery.  He was always funny.  Some people said that being around him was like being in the presence of an ambassador or a duke.  He would have hated either moniker because he was ultimately self-deprecating, but it was true.  There was something of the gentlemen and the gentle man about him.   

He claimed to make potato pancakes, but it turned out that he only grated the potatoes.  Dorothy did all the rest.  Married sixty years, he wasn’t a man to say “I love you” until Alzheimer’s released him from that constriction, and he became delightfully more free with his feelings.  Fear and trembling about his disease was certainly there, but his decline was slow, over fifteen years or more, and within them, he continued to live a full and robust life, singing, drawing, discussing, participating, and loving through to his final days at Central Baptist Village. Max died surrounded by his family, holding Dorothy’s hand. 

He was a good man. 


Max is preceded in death by his mother Rose Josephine, his father Max Herman, his brothers Frank (Anne Neary), Walter, and Hans.  He is survived by his wife Dorothy, his children Kate (Tom Wetzel), Max (Susan Cain), and Tony (Jackie Shay), and his grandchildren Anya, Claire, and Max.  He is the brother-in-law of Gertrude and Joe Fabach, Frank and Carol Ballo, Luke and Mary Kay Ballo, Mike and Terry Ballo.  He is uncle to JoAnn, Bud, Diane, Suzanne, George, Cynthia, Christopher, John, Donald, Richard, Mark, Edward, Karen, Susan, Rosemary, Frank, Katherine, Anne, Walter, Daniel, Alice, Charles, James, and Matthew. 

Visitation will be on Thursday, June 30 at Olson Burke/Sullivan Funeral and Cremetion Center from 4 pm to 8 pm.  Funeral will be on Friday, July 1 with family and friends meeting at St. Juliana Catholic Church, 7201 N. Oketo Ave., Chicago for a 1 pm Mass.  Interment: St. Joseph Cemetery, River Grove, Il.

Memorial gifts may be directed to Central Baptist Village Spark the Arts Fund, 4747 N. Canfield Ave., Norridge, IL 60706 or online at https://cbvillage.org/giving/donate-online/funds


Catherine Ranft Cilli and son Christopher June 29, 2022

Nice and great nephew Chicago , Illinois

So sorry for your loss. Your father was very kind and comforting to my sister Rosemary and brothers Frankie and Daniel during their journeys. They as well as me,were and am forever grateful. May you find comfort in your memories of love. Best,Catherine


Friend of Tony and Jackie Lapeer , Michigan

I am truly sorry for the loss of your Father. I wish i could have met him and heard some of his stories, but i know they will live on with all those who knew and loved him. <3 Much love to all the family and friends who lost this amazing man. Kim

Eric Peplowski June 29, 2022

Worked with Tony for years at AFGI Troy , Michigan

I'm so sorry for your loss Tony (and family). Sounds like your Dad lived a full life and made an impact on all.

Pamela V. Gibson June 29, 2022

Palette& Chisel drawing class Chicago , Illinois

Max's drawing class at the P & C was such a delight. "Measure, measure, measure... and GET THE SWING!!!!" And so we did. Condolences to Tony and the whole family on your loss; hoping that the memories of sharing parts of his life are some comfort to you. He is missed.

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Funeral & Cremation Center
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