'He lived with courage and followed his heart'

Community turns out to honor Garrett Ray, former Independent editor/owner

Posted 1/3/19

Garrett Ray brought the Littleton community together for years as editor and owner of the Littleton Independent. He did so one last time, at his funeral. A standing-room-only crowd packed Columbine …

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'He lived with courage and followed his heart'

Community turns out to honor Garrett Ray, former Independent editor/owner

Posted

Garrett Ray brought the Littleton community together for years as editor and owner of the Littleton Independent.

He did so one last time, at his funeral.

A standing-room-only crowd packed Columbine United Church on Dec. 30 to say goodbye to a man who touched many lives in his 82 years. The event was packed with former Littleton mayors, journalists and dignitaries.

Ray died on Dec. 17 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease.

“He was many things to many people,” Ben Ray, Garrett's son, said in a eulogy. “Brother, husband, son, friend, colleague, leader, grandfather. But to me, he was my dad. To me, he was my hero, and I will miss him.”

Few eyes in the room stayed dry when Ben played a recording of his father singing old love songs, including one he wrote for his beloved wife of 58 years, Nina.

“They say that love is for the young, that passions never last,” went a line of Ray's song. “They talk as if our warm embrace is something from the past. But every time I kiss your face, or hold you close I see, our love is for a lifetime, you're everything to me.”

Ray's friends spoke fondly of Ray's dedication to his craft.

“His integrity and wisdom in his ideas and opinions helped shape community thinking,” said Henry Fischer, one of Ray's friends. “He was rarely without his pad and pencil in his shirt pocket to take notes at a moment's notice.”

Fischer said bringing his family to spend time with Ray's family at the latter's Estes Park cabin was one of his life's great joys, and recalled summer evenings playing word games and eating big dinners.

Ray's influence can be seen all over Littleton, said former city manager Larry Borger, though the younger set may not realize it.

Borger held back tears as he rattled off the civic improvements Ray championed: Arapahoe Community College, Bemis Library, Chatfield Reservoir and South Platte Park, to name a few.

“He was always positive and fair,” Borger said. “If it was a bad idea, he'd say so. If it was a good idea, he'd enthusiastically endorse it.”

Perhaps the most stirring eulogy was from Ben Ray, who spoke lovingly of his father's grace and steadfastness.

“I wanted to have sideburns like him, shave like him, dress like him, play the guitar and sing like him,” Ben said.

Ben reminisced about his childhood with his father, going camping, building forts or playing the game horse on their basketball hoop.

As Ben grew older, he recalled, his father instilled a “fierce sense of independence and ability to face down my fears… He taught me the one person who can save me is the one in the mirror.”

“He lived with courage and followed his heart,” Ben said. “He never gave up or gave in. Not when he climbed Longs Peak, not when he sold the Littleton Independent, not when he lost two of his children — my sisters Jane and Sarah — and not when Parkinson's tried to get the best of him. It was hard for all of us to see, but he never complained once, ever.”

Ben spoke of the moment his father left this life.

“His breathing became labored,” Ben said. “He kept holding on, never conceding. But finally, as his body was no longer able to give him strength, curled up and vulnerable like the day he came into this world, feathers started to unfold. As he took his last breath, his glorious eagled wings carried his spirit to the heavens, freeing him from the shackles of years of pain and suffering. And like that, he was gone.”

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