Dear Ray, As your soul took flight last Saturday with your wife of 58 years at your side and all your eight children around you, we couldn't help noticing that you cleared away the rain clouds as you went. The Simi Valley home you and Carol have been improving all these years couldn't have looked better or stood more soundly. Raising six girls - Dawn Venning, Robin Correll, Sherry Priess, Michelle Ponticelli, Carol Ann LeRose and Crystal Batchelor - alongside your two sons, Michael and Patrick Kellick, under that one roof seemed only to strengthen you, as your kids were never in want of love, 8-track music, help with math homework, shoes, sacraments, hamburgers, a trip to a friend's house, jokes, computer advice, respect, or movie tickets.
Lockport, NY, where you grew up skating on Lake Ontario, played six man varsity football in '49, and took that pretty, young Carol to a theatre play at Wilson High on your first date is far from the Metrology lab you ran at Teledyne in Northridge for 30 years. Seems like you made a few detours.
As an Air Force staff sergeant serving in Japan during the Korean War you acquired cultural wisdom and aerospace skills, which gave substance to your life for the decades ahead.
Then Carol and you said, "I do" to each other during the first ever Catholic-Protestant wedding service in Niagara County to be allowed inside a Catholic church. Meanwhile, Bell Aircraft and McDonnell Douglas were making history in the space race, helping you raise your growing family in New York, North Carolina and California while astronauts hailed earth on radios you installed.
And your children had children, and so did those children until the tally reached 35 with two more on the way in a few weeks. Attending school sports matches, band concerts, baptisms, graduations and holiday gatherings could well have consumed all your retirement days, but you never lost your competitive edge in the fantasy football league. Two championships belong to you already and your team is now in third place. Maybe all those trips to Big Sur gave you the edge.
And so, Ray, a goodly number of us will be at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Encino on Saturday, December 1st, at 10:00 AM to see you once again. Hope your sister, Sheila Pratt can make it, too. Afterward we'll be telling stories about how you taught us the dignity of work, or showed us what Mt. Fuji looks like, or about the time FDR waved at you in your stroller, and how you made the sun come out for us. With love.
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