George “Fenton” Ray, 81, of Dagsboro, Del., successfully but reluctantly departed our company, passing away on Monday, May 11, 2020. He will be sadly missed by scads of birds and squirrels that frequented his backyard feeders and the myriad of other critters that stopped by. Ray was the son of the late Emmor Ray and Mary (McCarthy) Ray of Drexel Hill, Pa.
He loved dogs but admitted to being too lazy to care for, in his words, “a permanent 2-year-old.” But every dog in the neighborhood walking by his house stopped and looked for their friend on the chance of getting their ears rubbed. He enjoyed scouting in his early years as a Cub Scout and up to Eagle Scout. He worked at Valley Forge (Pa.) Council scout camps while in high school and college. While stationed in Germany with the Army, he was a scout master and served on the Eagle Board of Review in Reno, Nev.
Ray was the classic late-bloomer. Graduating from West Philadelphia Catholic High School in 1956, he worked as a quality-control lab tech for Triangle Publications in Philadelphia, doing ink, paper and electroplating analysis, until he started college in 1961. He graduated from Penn State, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1965 and master’s degree in education in 1966. During that time, the Army was evidently desperate for men, and after four years of ROTC, he was commissioned as an officer. After an initial two-year tour, he returned to civilian life in education and joined the Army Reserve.
He worked in student affairs at both Penn State (Altoona Campus) and the University of Nevada-Reno and then in school counseling in Fallon and Reno, Nev. In Nevada, he dabbled in silver and turquoise mining on weekends, where he picked up the name “Fencepost,” after his near-sighted mining partner mistook him for a fence post on the other side of the mining claim. Although he settled in Delaware after retiring, he always missed the smell of sagebrush after a rain, the song of “God’s Dog” (the coyote) just before dawn and the vast openness of the Nevada high desert.
Ray returned to Army active duty in 1978, serving in intelligence assignments at Presidio of San Francisco, the Pentagon and at Ft. Meade, Md. He graduated from the Army Command and General Staff College (albeit, near the bottom of his class) in 1977 and managed to squiggle through the Army War College in 1987. He was the recipient of many military awards and decorations during his service, but to him, the memories and friendships of the men and women that served with him were the best reward.
He retired from the Army in 1994, at the rank of colonel, convinced of a military conspiracy that promoted him, he felt, at least two levels above his competency. But of all the titles and ranks that he held, the most important to him was “Dad.” He merged his educational and military backgrounds at Sussex Central High School, where he initiated the Army JROTC program in 1995. Although he loved working with and teaching the students, he retired from that position in 2005 to spend more time with his wife, JoAnn, as she battled cancer.
Ray has volunteered for one last tour of military duty by donating his remains to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Md. (So much for those who said back in high school that he’d never get into medical school!)
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at a later date, at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Bethany Beach, Del., with interment at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Dagsboro, Del. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be sent to St. Ann’s Catholic Church; 691 Garfield Pkwy.; Bethany Beach, DE 19970, or to Brandywine Valley SPCA; 22918 Dupont Blvd.; Georgetown, DE 19947.