March 02, 2004

Paul Riley

Ray was a good, solid person. No doubt about it. He lived life the way it was meant to be lived; and did so with class. My wife and I consider ourselves lucky to have met and known Ray. He is a good example to us all.

When I think back over the years, two “Ray” stories jump to the front of my mind. The first dates back to 1992, in Washington DC. It was Sunday night, and everyone had left town for home after a long weekend. Except for Ray. Never one to turn down a drink, I joined Ray for an eight hour tour of Georgetown. Along the way, I lost my keys. When we returned to my house, I gave Ray two options: (1) break into the house, and risk being shot by Mrs. Partridge (an 88 year old, four and a half foot woman who owned and lived in the house and from whom I rented a room); or (2) find another place to stay. Always thinking, Ray came up with a third. He pulled the Astroturf carpeting from Mrs. Partridge’s porch, rolled me up in the carpeting, and did the same to himself. Unlike Ray, I did not strip down to my boxers. I asked Ray why he did it; he said that’s what he does before he goes to bed.

I’ll never forget the next morning. Mrs. Partridge came outside to get her paper, and found us lying at her doorstep. Ray immediately unrolled himself from the carpeting, jumped up, introduced himself to Mrs. Partridge, and proceeded to engage her in conversation — doing so in his boxers, in broad daylight, with neighbors passing by. For days, Mrs. Partridge raved about Ray, and suggested that I bring my friends by more often. I still think Mrs. Partridge is telling the neighbors that Ray was her friend, not mine. Ray had that kind of effect on people.

The second story happened a few years back, shortly before my wife and I moved to San Francisco. We were walking down by the Bay the morning of the Alcatraz swim. As the swimmers reached the shore, they proceeded directly to a warming area, to be wrapped in blankets and given hot drinks to elevate their body temperature. Except for one: a tall, bearded, shivering man, wearing a wet suit, who emerged from the water, and made a B-line for Pam and I. It was Ray. How he ever spotted us in the crowd I will never know. After greeting us with a huge smile and hug , Ray said "Paul, you need a beer." It was amazing: Ray was clearly cold and tired, but didn't seem to notice once he saw us. Making his friends feel happy and welcome was more important. And true to his word, Ray led us to his stash of Budweisers. It was classic Ray.

They say that only the good die young. No saying could be more appropriate here. Ray will be missed, but always fondly remembered.