Flannel-gray clouds piled up against the Grays Harbor horizon like pachyderms on parade. Rain sluiced out of the sky in sheets. Night quickly swaddled the 8th Street Ale House in sable. Inside, a select group of friends raised their glasses to Ray Brown, political activist, veteran, flier, and friend.
The November 15 Remembering Ray gathering was bittersweet. It included the shock and sadness of his November 4 passing. Also upbeat reminiscences of Ray’s wry wit, astute political observations and engagement, his naval service and love of aviation and good food. Memories wound around the table like bunting on a band stand. One attendee recalled his last lunch with Ray – spaghetti and garlic bread at the Montesano Senior Center last spring. Others recalled Ray’s support for numerous campaigns, candidates, and causes.
Ray was born in Corvallis, Oregon.* His family moved to the Seattle area in 1962, settling in Des Moines, Washington. Music was a big part of his early life. He played drums in elementary school and was in a stage band at Pacific Junior High School. Ray was also active in stage, jazz, and marching bands at Mount Rainier High School. He participated in a drum and bugle baton corps marching band called the Seattle Ettes.
Ray joined the Navy after graduating from high school. He attended nuclear power school in Idaho. He later served as an electrician on the USS Oriskany, an aircraft carrier. (Known as the Mighty O, the Oriskany was a Vietnam-era super carrier. It was decommissioned in 1976 and sunk off Pensacola, becoming the world’s largest artificial reef.)
Following his naval service, Ray worked at the Lockheed and Todd shipyards on Harbour Island in Seattle. He later moved to Grays Harbor to work at the Westport shipyard.
Additional interests and activities included competing on a practical pistol team, crewing on a rowing team, and aviation. Ray was a private pilot and owned several airplanes.
Ray was also active in the Grays Harbor Republican Party. He attended his first GHRP meeting in 2006. He became a party stalwart, serving in a variety of capacities including Precinct Committee Officer, delegate to the WSRP state convention, and more recently, State Committeeman. Ray was a frequent, perceptive presence at numerous meetings for a wide variety of civic and governmental functions.
He will be missed.
Another celebration of Ray’s life is set for Tuesday, November 28 at 6:00 p.m. in the Ocean Palace banquet room, 112 E. Wishkah Street, Aberdeen.
*This is a revised, expanded version of the obituary yours truly wrote for The Daily World.
Plane image credit: Flickr
Oriskany image credit/U.S. Navy
Spaghetti image credit: Flickr