As a child Tom Ray knew he wanted to fly, but he also knew his father wanted him to become a civil engineer. After three years of college at Georgia Tech, the Americus native finally decided to follow his dream and enroll in officer candidate school, said his daughter, Cris Ray Connelly of Atlanta.
Ray, who earned his Navy pilot’s wings in 1950 and served until 1969, eventually flew everything from blimps to airplanes to helicopters during his military service. “He’d been fascinated with aviation since he was young,” Connelly said. “Flying made him so happy.”
Thomas Broadfield Ray of Stone Mountain died Aug. 22 after a brief illness. He was 87.
A memorial gathering is planned for Sept. 29 at the Park Springs Community club house. Cremation was arranged by A.S. Turner & Sons and his ashes will be buried at a later date.
Along with aviation, Ray had a number of interests, said James Lacy, of Sandy Springs, a friend since the late-‘60s. The two met at First Baptist Church of Sandy Springs and found out they had a number of things in common, including their love of Civil War history.
“We traveled a lot, to battlefields and places like that,” he said. “And we also started doing things together like working on sailboats and lawnmowers and things like that. He had a great many interests.”
Ray’s daughter Patti Ray Stanley of Nashville said her father’s love of history likely dates back to his childhood, when he used to hunt for artifacts in a vacant lot near the Virginia Highland-area home where his parents lived, after moving the family from Americus.
“I understand he got a metal detector,” Stanley said. “And he would find things and identify them.”
Ray also started collecting Civil War-era firearms, and became something of an expert in the antique weaponry.
Lacy said when he and Ray would go from one battlefield to another, his friend could rattle off the types of weapons and ammunition that would have been used during battle.
“He was very knowledgeable about those kinds of things,” Lacy said.
Family was a big part of Ray’s life, his daughters said. He and Jean Bodin Ray raised three daughters together and moved all across the country as his assignments in the Navy changed. The couple had been married for 62 years when she died earlier this year.
Ray was generally a fairly serious man, until “he got in his element,” his daughter Stanley said with a laugh.
“He was funny and loved to dance,” she said. “And he loved barbershop quartet singing.”
Stanley said her father didn’t need a full quartet to strike up a tune. During many a family trip he alone would serenade his wife and three daughters.
“We’d be in the backseat rolling our eyes and he’d be up front belting out the tenor parts,” Stanley said. “And he told us we’d miss it when we got older, and he was right,” she added tearfully.
In addition to Connelly and Stanley, Ray is survived by a third daughter, Lisa Ray O’Shea of Lawrenceville; and six grandchildren.
The members of the state ethics commission, eager to bring order to one of the most disordered corners of state government, hired a “receiver” last week to heal their agency and then did they only thing they could.
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