February 24, 2009

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One of the many Ray notes I have, this one still stuck inside a kitchen cabinet, is a postcard he sent us from a fishing trip. In his Ray-spelling he wrote “Hi My Love I hope your having a good time, I’m fishing in the mountaints & look forward to sharing this spot with you both. We’ll have a great time sailing on Sat. LOVE you. Rose – don’t forget your life vest, its in the garage hanging on the drawrs.” He drew us a picture: a stick figure fisherman Ray, with a very big fish at the end of his line. Over his head is a thought bubble of three little stick figures, holding hands.

Sometimes I like to think that’s where he is, fishing in the “mountaints,” thinking of us.

How can it be five years? How can he be gone?

Rose is 9 now. This birthday was so hard for me, one of the hardest ‘milestones’ we’ve faced together. To know that from that point on, and more so every day, she has lived more days without him than she had days with her beloved daddy. That’s so wrong.

I wonder sometimes if I push remembering him too much. But I ask her, and she says I don’t. Mostly it’s those offhand, little things, that strike me – like this weekend, the way she always makes her special French toast is his way. They loved to cook together. She likes to be reminded. She sometimes will remind me, or tell me something I didn’t know, about him and their time together. Mostly she’ll do that when I tell her it’s ok if she can’t remember very much. Even I forget sometimes, the entirety of him. It’s those sharp, deep fragments that make up my remembering now. But there is no option for me but to remember, he was my Ray.

We went to Yosemite last weekend, our annual gathering. It was spectacular, more snow than I’ve ever seen, so much fun. When we were on our way home she was happily telling me how lucky we were: so lucky to have the cabin to go to, so lucky to have such a great family, to have so many fun things to do together – sledding, ice skating, the snow ramp Uncle Blaise & Uncle James made on the back porch. I added how lucky she was to have such wonderful uncles, who do things with her that her daddy would have done. And she said, wonderingly, “he would have?” It killed me. How can she not know? I know that’s unfair, but it hurts.

I don’t mean in any way to take away from our wonderful life, how lucky we are, the many friends and family that we have who love us, who contribute to both of our lives. Or to take away from what a special person Rose is – believe me, she’s not just amazing because of how much she’s like Ray, she’s incredible in her own right. And I know her remembering and her knowledge of Ray is a deep and important part of her. But of course I want more.

I’ve just re-re-read through all the wonderful postings on this site, thank you. It’s good to remind myself that the stories, the little moments, the connections ARE good, are important, are part of what we all try to learn from Ray. It’s important to tell your loved ones that you love them. Rose knows that her daddy loved her, knows that she is a lucky girl to carry him inside her. In many ways she doesn’t need me to tell her these things. But then again, she does. We all do. We need the stories.

Rose and I are heading out today, another ritual, our annual runaway, to go where the ocean and sky are big enough to help get us through the horrible day. Just being there, just living, IS remembering.

Remember Ray. Tell someone you love them. Tell a Ray story.

March 02, 2006

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I had the good fortune to meet Ray in the Tulane Rowing Club. We rowed in the Varsity 8 together for a couple of great years shared many good times together both on the water and around campus. I am deeply saddened by his death – he was a sincere, genuine and thoughtful individual. I will always remember his soft nature, beaming smile, and good humor. Even though we lost touch over the years, I often thought fondly about the times we spent together, especially our trip to Ireland and England to row in the Henley Regatta in 1988. It is one of the most memorable events of my life and Ray will always be part of it. Goodbye Ray, may God bless you and your family.

March 04, 2005

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The real question coming up on February 25 2005 was how to capture and try to respectfully bring tribute to the memory of Ray

The real issue is that Ray was a dynamic multi faceted person who was easy going, fun loving, mature and ready to follow a whim, all at once


March 02, 2005

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Ray's passing was difficult for me as it was for all of us. I haven't been able to articulate very well all that I've felt. Ray was a very important part of my life, a role model. He truly had the ability to brighten people's days and had a never-ending supply of good cheer. As time goes by, when I think about Ray I feel more happiness than sadness.


March 01, 2005

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Easter Sunday 2003

Ray had been invited during the winter to join our race crew for the coming spring and summer season.  Ray had not spent one day sailing on this boat (which was not his boat), but as was his nature, he insisted on joining us in the yard to put his time in "on the hard".  Ray cut out early from Easter dinner with his family, rode his motorcycle over to Richmond on a glorious spring day, and joyously spent the day inhaling sawdust and varnish fumes.  Ray understood what it meant to be part of something.  He never asked for, nor expected a free ride - even when it was offered without qualification.  This photo is from that day.  By the way, Ray helped crew the boat to several first place finishes that season!  A valuable crew member, and a precious friend and human being, I hope to always see him waiting on the docks, ready to jump on and face whatever may come.

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While I wasn’t as close to Ray as some of the other guys, I recall spending one summer between semesters in NOLA working out at his uptown rental house (the one with the pool). He had a free weight bench and some dumbbells and we worked at it religiously. (I know, I know – what a surprise that I would have workout memories!!) Also, we would go out to ATIIs at night which in the summers which was infested with LSU kids back in the City for the summer. One night, some guy was talking to a girl I was interested in and Ray (without me asking) got into a scuffle with the guy. When they were separated, the guy had a bloody mouth and Ray had a cut over his eye in his eyebrow. We went back to his place and crashed not thinking much of the cut, but it turned out he needed stitches. But, that was Ray, no need to ask for his help, he would be there on his own accord. That type of selflessness does not commonly exist and certainly did not in college students in my day.

By the way – the girl is now my wife of 10 years and is expecting our second child in six weeks.

February 25, 2005

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Last year, I wrote about Ray taking a break from his cross-country trip to (unexpectedly) attend my wedding. I finally dug through the box-o-memories and found these pictures. The first two are photographs from the wedding - a pre-ceremony pool party and the reception. The last two images are from one of Ray's famous picture postcards that he sent me afterwards.

February 22, 2005

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Ok Soph, here's a little story. Before Ray left the East Coast on his cross-country motorcycle trip, the Nevins held a farewell party at their house (aka Club Nevins) on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Mr. Nevins decided that we were going to roast a pig, which is exactly what we did. During the roasting process, the meat became quite tender. So tender, in fact, that the rod inserted throught the carcass to rotate the pig over the fire began to spin without the meat turning. We had to figure out how to get the pig rotated so that it would cook evenly, but every time we would get it turned, it would slip back down. We expended quite a bit of effort over that hot pit trying different options until we finally decided, as I recall, to just put the whole thing directly into the fire. We had to get the meat out by lifting the carcass in tandem using a couple of shovels and a pitchfork.

No meat ever tasted so good.

That was also my last visit to Club Nevins because I left DC a few days later to get married and move to Atlanta.

Ray later mailed me some pictures of that day, which I have included below. He wrote captions on both of them. While he is not in the picture on the left, he was the photographer. He labeled it "Men of Steel and Fire". The one on the right was captioned "Dean - Club Nevins - The Big Bash - July 1991".

February 01, 2005

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It's coming on the anniversary of Ray's passing and his wonderful presence and deeds remain in our thoughts and heart.

January 27, 2005

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Through Ron Etergino, I was fortunate enough to have met and spend time with Ray over the years. He was kind and his humor and demeanor gave off an aurora of contagious good feelings. I was given a few of the attached stickers for my hardhat. I work for GE Energy Management Services at Gas Turbine sites all over the US and the world , most of them under construction at the time of my work. I have copied and distributed the sticker to many other of my co workers along with how special a person Ray was. The sticker prompts many people to ask about it's origin at these sites. The story of Ray's accident, his personality and what he left behind are told them. It touches, even if only briefly, every person that hears it and reminds us all of how important safety is.


GE Energy
Harry Hanson
Senior Project Manager
GE Energy Management Services, Inc.

November 02, 2004

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The Ray O'Neal at its first event.

July 14, 2004

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Sunday was the Alcatraz Sharkfest swim. It would have been Ray's sixth swim. Early that morning a big crowd of friends and family went down to witness my brother-in-law Blaise (Ray's inspiration) swim for the 7th year, our friend Greg swim for the 4th year, and my incredible cousin James swim for the 1st time, in honor of Ray. In traditional SF fashion we've had dismal grey July days, and Saturday's Yankee sail was freezing, but we woke up Sunday morning to gorgeous sunny skies, and all felt that Ray was smiling down on us. The guys all made great time - 46 minutes for Greg, 49 minutes for Blaise, and James came in at an astonishing 52 minutes.


June 16, 2004

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June 15, 2004

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June 09, 2004

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At Ray's Memorial Service I told a story about a Mexican meal I cooked for Ray & Sophie after my husband & I returned from Zihuatanejo last May. You may recall the point of my telling that story was to illustrate Ray's kind, quiet, and considerate demeanor. Despite how awful everyone else around the table found the flavor of the dish Ray kept forking that food into his mouth with a sweet smile on his face - without complaint. (Sophie insists Ray liked the way it tasted - I just can't believe that's true!)


May 11, 2004

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As two sad months of reflection have come and gone I have slowly brought into focus a small hard crystalline nugget from the tragedy of Ray's passing and that is my friend and buddy from college was a craftsman and a builder. Not only do I mean his vocation but I mean his avocation. Ray quietly and almost in a sneaky way built things. It is curious that in thinking of him so many times these last few days this has finely dawned on me.


April 06, 2004

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Hi my name is Peter Doncaster. I was at Tulane with Ray. We lived on the same hall freshman year (3rd floor Monroe), we were pledge brothers, and we were on the crew team together for the first year. Though we lived on the same floor it took Tony to bring us all together. I’m almost certain we began to be friends during one of the Fire Drill Wars of 1984. The neighboring dorm would come and pull our fire alarm at two am, we’d all shuffle out, wait outside for 45 minutes, go back inside, then someone from our dorm would retaliate an hour later…and so on… This war went on for the entire first semester. It became customary to invade Tony’s room in the neighboring dorm (Sharp) whenever our fire alarm was pulled and to hang out there until Sharp’s fire alarm was pulled two hours later.


March 30, 2004

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Pictures from Ray's Memorial Service. The group in the last picture is composed of his fraternity brothers who were able to make it to San Fancisco to celebrate his life and mourn his death (photos courtesy of Jeff Simpson).

March 29, 2004

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To scroll through the pictures that were shown in the Memorial Service Slide Show, click here.

March 28, 2004

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This is one of the many " Photo Postcard Pictures" I received from Ray over the years, circa 1994. The photo is from the last time Ray and I had seen each other at that point, at Peter Zvejniek's wedding in Atlanta.  It's one of the reasons Ray was able to stay in touch with so many people in so many places. He would take a photo he had, write a note on the back and mail it. He actually ran out of room on this photo, so it arrived in an envelope. My wife Margaret found it unexpectedly while going through a desk drawer this week. It is at the same time uplifting and heartbreaking for me to look at and read. But it does give wonderful insight and reflection of Ray as a person and friend so I wanted to share it. - Anthony DeLucia

March 24, 2004

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My name is Janki DePalma, and I want to share this brief story about Ray to you all, if only to show how small acts of kindness can touch people in unseen ways. Forgive the ramblings and the incomplete thoughts... they just seem to flow this way right now.


March 23, 2004

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The day you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that the day you die the world will cry and you will rejoice. - Cherokee Expression

My name is Laura and I worked with Ray (although not on a daily basis) for the 4 years he was with Bovis. I have a few special Ray stories, but this one is my favorite. It's a glimpse of the tip of the iceberg of all the good things that made Ray Ray.


March 15, 2004

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I just wanted to add these pictures of Ray. The first one is from May, 1988. I think it was graduation week. The second one is from my wedding in October of 1997.

Ray was a good friend. I'm going to miss him and remember him always.

March 12, 2004

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A Bahamas Birthday Bash

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I met Ray the first day of Tulane's Freshmen Orientation in '84. He had huge hands and an impressive handshake. We were compatable room mates who became fast friends, perhaps our western attitudes made the difference.

He was very close to his Dad which impressed me.


March 11, 2004

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I have thought a lot about Ray these past two weeks. He, his beautiful wife Sophie, and their Rosebud are a big part of our life. I, my wife Abigail, and our boys Edward and Michael miss him dearly. By the way, he is known affectionately as Uncle Tiny to his nieces and nephews.


March 06, 2004

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March 03, 2004

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March 02, 2004

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I believe that in life we have the privelege of choosing who our friends are, and I am proud to say that Ray was a dear friend of mine. Ray had a bigger than life persona and approached the world as such. Thus, it was always a pleasure to be with Ray. We met on the Tulane Rowing team and extended our frienship along to our professional careers starting out in NYC. Ray, thank you for all the wonderful memories and all of the "Cuba Libres" we enjoyed together.

Your friend Franny.

February 29, 2004

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I am sending around a few photos from the old Tulane days that I think capture Ray's positive and happy disposition. Unfortunately I hadn't seen Ray in quite some time but I will always remember his big smile and easy going attitude.

February 26, 2004

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I am personally struggling with the confusion and senselessness of this tragedy.  Ray was the kindest, most genuine person I have ever met. His selflessness and smile made this world a lot brighter and I will miss him dearly.