March 07, 2004

Ron Etergino

My eulogy from the Memorial Service

As I look to the pews today I see faces that mirror mine. They are lined with sadness and etched in sorrow and behind the tears that fall for Ray O’Neal I see great love and respect. Love and respect for a man that spent his entire existence embracing life and leaving an impact on anyone that crossed his path.

Had anyone asked Ray what his finest legacy to the world would be, I have no doubt that he would have quickly answered, “my family”. He was a loving, devoted husband to Sophie and father to Rosebud. He was a loving son, brother, nephew, cousin and friend. He was robbed of living the length of life he deserved. We will forever miss his love, patience, guidance and his smile.

I met Ray as a freshman at Tulane and was his little brother in the fraternity we both belonged to. Ours was a friendship that developed quickly and has lasted throughout the years. Ray was truly the kindest person I have ever met. I have never heard anyone say one derogatory thing about him. Ray was always a joy to be around and after a few beers with the guys we could always count on him to yelp, “woo woo” to express his pleasure and light up the crowd.

When he was out of college he got in the habit of bringing his laundry to my mother's house. After a while, I have to admit that my mother became a bit annoyed. Knowing that day that Ray was coming to get me, she said that she was going to tell Ray he would have to start doing his laundry on his own. No sooner did the words come out of her mouth, there was Ray, walking up our steps with a bouquet of flowers in one hand, laundry in the other. Ray, in his jovial way, walks in, smiles at my mother and says “Hi Mrs. Etergino, these flowers are for you.” Of course my mother was taken aback and knew that she couldn't tell Ray she wasn't going to do his laundry anymore. Instead she looked at him and said to Ray, “You know I don't mind doing your laundry -- but I am not going to iron anymore!”

Ray was best known for his generosity, friendship, selflessness, and for always being able to put people at ease. He loved to learn and teach; his patience and guidance were models for everyone. Everytime, I came to visit him, Ray would teach me about the area, take me to casting ponds, or beat me in a game of dominoes…He was an avid sailor and captain of the Yankee, which he loved to work on with his family and share with friends. He found contentment with the water.

I always admired the way they way he lived life with a passion. A few years ago Ray, Anthony, and I went on a motorcycle trip through the Gold County of California. Ray planned the trip and he was in his elements! I mean he was outdoors, teaching us about the area, the fishing holes, and the areas we drove through. It was typical Ray. He had a story about everywhere we went. You could tell he engrossed himself in learning about the best fishing spots, down to the exact watering hole where we would stop, through all the details he gave us. Along the way we stopped through the city, the desert, the mountains, and then drove into the wine country. On one of our stops I remember Ray telling us about the spring melt up in the mountains, as we were overlooking a crystal blue mountain stream. As we relaxed a little bit, Ray said he was going to check out the water. Anthony & I, drained from our trip and contemplating a couch and the TV at this point, decided not to move from our resting spot as Ray headed towards the stream. I don't remember how much time went by but I do remember looking down and seeing Ray swimming in the stream. It was more like a frog kicking his, naked, It was a very cold stream. We asked him how far up he went and he said until it got shallow. I thought it was already shallow so I really don't know how far he got -- but typical Ray, he enjoyed life and the outdoors on that day just as did each and every day. He walked through life carefree with a spring in his step, a smile on his face, and a passion for life. He was a man who treated every day like it was the miracle.

Ray was generous and gentle. He was in a class all his own. You didn’t have to know him long to love him. He would give you the shirt off the back if he thought you needed it and want nothing in return. He opened his home and his heart to all of us. He was not materialistic, not flashy, but always sincere and driven to learn about life. I looked up to him as an older brother and I loved him just the same.

Although Ray was young when he died, he walked this life with a proud smile of a person who had life all figured out. He had life figured out in the sense that he knew that family and friends came first. He loved his wife Sophie and his daughter Rose Bud, and all his family and friends with gusto. He was never quick to anger and he only showed respect.

Ray led an exemplary life and he was loved and admired by many. I'll miss him forever and I can tell you genuinely that if you have a friend like Ray, you are very blessed.

We all attempt to live our lives as good people and try to do the right thing but we all know how difficult it is to live that way day in and day out. But, for Ray, this was done without him even thinking about it or even realizing it. It just came natural to him. He was good from his head to his toes and every bit in between

If we have comfort in Ray's death today it’s in the fact that we know that Ray has already earned his wings and they are golden.

Rest well, Ray. You were a gentleman and a gentle man. And, keep your ears open, for when it is my turn to pass you will hear my loud deep call you’ve heard many a’times….SHIITTAAAAY…..