Ray was born on May 5, 1926 in Phoenix, Arizona. He attended Whittier Elementary School and Phoenix Union High School. After high school, Ray had the privilege of serving in the V-12 Navy College Training Program and was stationed at Arizona State Teacher’s College, Flagstaff (NAU). The purpose of the V-12 Program was to generate a large number of officers for both the Navy and the Marines to meet the needs during World War II.
It was in high school that he met Billie McBride and they married on Valentine’s Day, 1946, after the war ended and he returned home. He began a career in building and construction, working for his father’s construction business. In 1949, Ray and Billie started their family. Daughter Kathy was born in 1949 and Nancy was born three years later. Ray celebrated his 90th birthday in May.
Despite contracting the polio virus in the early 50’s before the vaccine was available, Ray persevered and was able to walk again. He retired after 30 years as Building Superintendent for the Basha Corporation. In addition, Ray designed and built several apartments and two of our family’s five homes.
Ray was fascinated with his hobbies of model trains and planes. He was a founding member of the Thunderbird Model Railroad Club, established in 1949 and the oldest continuous operating model railroad club in the state. He had a large garden railroad in his lush backyard which he spent many hours perfecting. He built remote controlled airplanes in the 60’s and early 70’s. Sometimes they would crash and it would break his heart, but he would go back to the workbench and build another plane.
His miniature hobbies took a back seat when he became involved with tournament croquet in the 80’s and 90’s. He was a member of the Arizona Croquet Club, serving as treasurer for many years. He also was a member of the United States Croquet Association and the Downtown Croquet Club. He played in many tournaments in Arizona and also travelled the country playing with his grandsons and his son in law. He won the 2nd Flight Championship of the US Open in Palm Springs in 1995.
Always the inventor, he designed and produced croquet mallets at the urging of his grandson. He named his business, “The Hummer” for the sound his unique mallet made. He occasionally got calls for some other popular item with the same name. His grandson, Jacques, won the World Championship in 1999 at Sonoma Cutrer with a mallet he made especially for him.
Ray was a lifelong Christian and a member of Paradise Valley United Methodist Church. His poor health in the past few years prevented him from attending, but he rarely missed Sunday morning church on the television.
Ray passed away peacefully in his own home, on August 2, 2016, with his family close beside him. He is survived by Billie, his wife of 70 years. He is also survived by his daughter, Kathleen Hamm Duck and her husband, Col. David Duck and his daughter Nancy Hamm Fournier. He was preceded in death by his son-in law, Dr. Donald Fournier. He was the grandfather to Christopher Duck (Erin), Catharine Fournier Raslavsky (John), Jacques Fournier, Alison Duck, Julia Fournier, Donald Fournier (Kristen), John Fournier (Rhonda), Anne Fournier Selin and James Fournier (Allison). He had 18 great grandchildren. A private family memorial will be held at a later time. Arrangements entrusted to Whitney & Murphy Funeral Home.
A better example of a life well lived would be hard to find. I’m a beneficiary of my Uncle Ray’s wisdom and humility, and I’m grateful for the time we spent together when I was young.
You will be sorely missed, Uncle Ray.