Grandfather, salesman, King Scout, Christian, gentleman. Born Aug. 8, 1930, in Walkerville, Ont.; died June 21, 2013, in Toronto of complications from bladder cancer, aged 82.
Ron Ray’s children and grandchildren often noted how much he enjoyed talking about the past. He loved reminiscing about the “good old days” in Windsor, Ont., where he grew up, the eldest of three children of George and Jessie Ray. Ron, however, was quick to point out that he was born in Walkerville before it was amalgamated into the city of Windsor during the Depression. He fondly recalled summers spent at his maternal grandparents’ cottage on Lake Erie, near Kingsville. These happy years were shattered when his father died of a heart attack in 1949, when Ron was 18.
Ron loved to tell the story of how he met his wife, Cathy. One day in 1945, Cathy’s mother asked a young neighbour to wash her car. He brought a friend with him, Ron, who spied a teenaged girl looking out from the second-storey window. It was Cathy, too shy to come down and say hello. Attending the same high school and church gave them the chance to get to know each other, and they married in 1954, moving to Toronto the next year. They had three children – Leslie, Ian and David – and four grandchildren.
To Ron, strangers were only friends he had not yet met. His engaging manner put people at ease, and within five minutes of meeting someone for the first time he would coax out his or her life story. Ron was a born salesman. After working for various corporations, he started his own company at 60. He found his niche market with RDR Packaging, which became a great success. Ron was never happier than being his own boss, retiring in 2007 at 77.
A lover of big band music, Ron was a fan of Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians. One of his proudest moments was meeting Guy at a concert in the early 1970s. Before Ron’s memorial service, a selection of Guy Lombardo tunes were played on the piano, including his favourite, Boo Hoo.
Ron’s love affair with cars started early, perhaps because he grew up in a car manufacturing city and had a grandfather who worked for Ford Motor Co. Ron could name and describe every car owned by his grandfather, father and himself, right down to all the bells and whistles.
Proud of his Scottish roots – his forebears had left Scotland in the early 19th century to settle in southwestern Ontario – Ron’s only regrets were that he never visited Scotland or learned to play the bagpipes. Summers were spent at a cottage on Lake Huron near Kincardine, Ont., where Ron and his family were enthusiastic supporters of the Saturday night bagpipe parades down the main street.
A dedicated Presbyterian, Ron toyed with the idea of becoming a minister while attending the University of Western Ontario. Instead he decided to serve the church as a layperson, becoming an elder at 30 and serving as clerk of session for 26 years at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church. His Christian faith served him well when he was told in early June that his cancer had returned after 18 months. From his hospital bed, he reaffirmed his faith and told everyone he knew he was going to a better place.
Boo Hoo Dad. We will miss you forever.
Leslie Ray is Ron’s daughter.