March 30, 2004

Janet Ford

My name is Janet Ford. I am Sophie’s aunt and Ray always called me “Aunt Janie”. Whenever I was with him or even talking on the telephone, he made me feel special - as if I was the one of the most important people in his life. As anyone can attest who was fortunate enough to know Ray – he made everyone feel that way. He adopted Sophie’s family with open arms and often said that he was so happy to have married into such a big family…..little did he know!

The year 2004 started with many of our boisterous clan celebrating Sean’s 40th birthday in grand style. A large family contingent then continued the New Year Festivities for a few more loud and glorious days – Blaise, Erin, Ray, Sophie, James, Denise, Taylore, Janet and all 4 kids (Jack, Isabelle, Rose and William) ages 6,5,4,and 3. We played games, cooked, laughed, hot tubbed and bonded to such an extent that plans were made to make a permanent home base for family gatherings – a Ford/Garrett/O’Neal /O’Connell/Simqu family compound. During that visit, Ray told me about a seminar he was to attend in late January in San Diego and asked if he could come stay with me.

For 3 very special days Ray stayed in my little house and we shared breakfast, lunch and dinner together. Like John Boy we said “Good Night” and “Love You” to each other at the end of the day and I was hard pressed to get up early enough to make him coffee before he had started breakfast for me. I cooked a shrimp dinner the first night he arrived for Ray, James, Denise and Jack and he loved it so much he asked for the recipe. Said he couldn’t wait to go home and cook it for Sophie and Rose – and he did! We ate out one night just the two of us and when we got back to the house we put on our PJ’s and he climbed up on my bed (long legs and all) to watch a favorite movie with me. I feel so lucky for the memories. We shared dreams and so many good things about life and love and family.

Only 3 weeks later, we all made plans to meet again in Yosemite over Valentine’s Day. 7 adults, 4 kids and this time, 3 dogs! Ray, Blaise and James were the outdoor kings. They built a special ramp in the backyard for the kids to go sledding. We hiked, built snowmen, and did puzzles, played card and word games, cooked, ate, drank beer and margaritas and laughed for 4 perfect days. Ray was always playing with one of the kids or the dogs. He and James made walking sticks for each of the kids and went off exploring - fording rocks and streams and log bridges like Lewis and Clark. One night after dinner he talked to us about his trip to Australia and how much he had learned and enjoyed it. When we all left Yosemite we were still not ready to say goodbye to each other so we drove to a lake nearby and had lunch together. Once again, the conversation returned to the possibility of a family compound and the sincerity of everyone involved in wanting to make that dream a reality. It was with that mutual love, respect and desire to continue this tradition that we all hugged and said our goodbyes.

The desire to make that dream happen is now stronger than ever. For Sophie and Rose to have a second home where they can visit and play surrounded by family, friends and every possible cousin was Ray’s wish. Ray will be a part of that future. He will be there in everyone’s smiles and grins as we head outdoors to play and enjoy the day. This time he’s riding our shoulders!