March 10, 2004

Bill Young

Read at the Memorial Service

What to say about Ray O’Neal

When Vicky called me the Wednesday of Ray’s accident, I knew then that the day would come when I would have to talk about Ray O’Neal.

What I try to do when I am in a situation that is overwhelming, like this one is, I take a deep breath, take a step back, clear my mind, focus all my resources on the task at hand. That task is talking about my brother Ray O’Neal.

I thought the best way to talk about Ray would be take specific words that represented what Ray stood for.

The first word would be “Family”. Ray was a family man, no question about it. Whenever I called Ray to ask how he was doing, he gave me about a 15-second response before he turned the conversation to Sophie or Rose to talk about something they had done as a family, or a project they were working on, or maybe their most recent adventure. It was the same thing for our family when we were with Ray. We saw him at Thanksgiving and again each July. Whenever we were around him he always presented himself as a family man, always wanting to be a part of whatever we were doing or play with the kids or spend time with me or Abby.

The second word that comes to mind when thinking of Ray is “Integrity”. This was very important to Ray and he was definitely all of that. If Ray said it, it was the truth. If Ray did it, he thought it was the right thing to do. If he was going to have a cause or carry a flag up a hill, he would certainly have all of us to follow him because we knew in his mind, it was always the right thing to do.

The next work that explains Ray is “Adventure”. There was not a hill Ray would not climb. There was not a part of the ocean he would not explore with The Yankee and there was not one thing he would not try that the rest of us probably would not want to. In fact when I told my children what had happened to Ray, we spent the next several hours talking about all the fun things we had done with him all of which would never have happened with out him, because Ray was always the instigator and the one that made it happen. Because of him we took a lot of adventures that we would not have done without Ray.

The other part of Ray that was an adventure was your everyday routine. It was never standard; if I could go through the times when I got in a car with Ray, jumped in the ocean with Ray, went on a run with Ray none of them were even close to being standard. When we were much younger, Ray and I were driving from Kansas City to Phoenix. On the way, Ray thought it would be fun to go to Las Vegas and that is where we ended up. Let me tell you Las Vegas is not anywhere close between Kansas City and Phoenix but we were there because Ray wanted us to be there and that is what he was about.

Another adventure Ray and I had was our traditional Thanksgiving Day run. We started off and I was dressed in all my Gortex ready to go and Ray showed up in a plaid shirt, khaki pants and big mining boots that looked like they were from the movie “The Coal Miner’s Daughter” and we went running. After seven miles there was only one of us out of breath and it was not Ray O’Neal.

The next word I would use to describe Ray is “Knowledge”. That is not to mean that when Ray and I got out of high school that NASA was coming to ask us to reinvent the rocket ship; it was the way Ray was always hungry for more information. He always wanted something from each and every experience. He always wanted to learn.

As a brother, I thought it would be my responsibility to think of something I could jab Ray a little bit about and the only thing I could think of was that he hated to watch sports on television. That really bothered me because he was such an athlete and adventurer but it was difficult for him to sit down and watch part of a game, let alone a whole game. This was always very difficult around Thanksgiving when Sophie and I would always take our ceremonial spots right in front of the TV while Ray would be reading a book. In fact the last book he was reading while we were watching a game was Harry Potter. I remember telling him “Hey O’Neal, how about putting the book down and come watch football with me and Sophie”. He said “No thanks” and probably didn’t skip a word. Then I said “Hey O’Neal, why don’t you come over here and watch a little TV with us or you and I will have to go”. He did not even flinch, so I went over there and as usual, I lost.

The final thing I want to do is pick one word that represented what Ray stood for, but I couldn’t come up with just one word because Ray was the whole package. He was the whole man whether you wanted to talk about having a husband, a son, a brother, someone to help you with a cause or someone to follow up a hill with a flag. Ray O’Neal was that guy hands down.

That is the reason we all loved him so much and why this is so difficult today to say goodbye not only to my brother, but to my best friend.

By Bill Young