Father, grandfather, uncle, veteran, scientist, musician. Born March 12, 1923, in Woodstock, N.B. Died Sept. 14, 2011, in Ottawa of congestive heart failure and lung cancer, aged 88.
Ray Fewer was patriarch to a legion of family on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border. It may take all of them combined to follow his example of strength in the face of obstacles, an analytical thirst for truth and knowledge, and a sharp sense of humour.
Ray went by Gup, a nickname he earned in childhood when he couldn’t pronounce “giddyup.” In later years, he was also known as Gramps.
One of two children of J. Raymond and Winnifred (Price) Fewer, Ray grew up in Woodstock, N.B. His extensive résumé began at 16 with the title of professional musician thanks to his talent as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist.
In the Second World War, Ray’s role as an 18-year-old reservist changed when he was awarded a prestigious commission in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Earning the rank equivalent to second lieutenant, he was stationed throughout Europe and the Middle East in roles including wireless operator, commanding officer and instructor.
When Ray was demobilized in 1946, he returned to school and completed his BSc at the University of New Brunswick followed by his MSc in physics from the University of Western Ontario. In 1949, he married Jean Aggleton, whom he had met while stationed in London during the war.
Ray began his professional career in the United States with Bell Telephone Labs. After welcoming their only child, Sharon, the family moved to Dallas, where Ray worked for Texas Instruments and participated in groundbreaking semiconductor research. He toured Europe to lecture about electrochemical devices, published numerous articles and served as program manager of his company’s optoelectronics department.
Varying his career path, Ray followed the call of Texas’ black gold and managed two different oil exploration and drilling firms. His lifelong pursuit of knowledge eventually brought him back to Canada in the mid-eighties, where he became a senior project manager for the National Research Council in Ottawa. Retirement saw him thrive as a full-time storyteller at his local pub.
Ray lived through several diagnoses of cancer in his lungs, leg and ear; the first was a rare form of osteosarcoma. He was in his 50s when the cancer was found in his hand, and the only treatment at the time was to have his arm amputated. This merely provided more fodder for his witty stories and performances, including an impersonation of a saguaro cactus.
After his death, Ray’s life was celebrated from his birthplace of New Brunswick to his home in the nation’s capital. The string of memories shared by family and friends only emphasized his legacy of humour, curiosity and tenacity.
By Sharon Powers, Ray’s daughter, and Molly Cormier, his grandniece.
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