My name is Scott Granneman. I’m Betty Sue’s oldest son, so Ray Simonson was my stepfather. I’m here to say a few words about Ray & what he meant to my Mom, my brother, & me.
Ray had been living at Lake of the Ozarks when he decided to move back to Marshall in late 1999. He started looking at houses, & one of those he picked was at 1080 South Salt Pond, which happens to be house I grew up in. When Ray realized that it was my Mom’s house, he recalled parties & social events from several decades earlier, & so he resolved to pay her a visit. This turned out well for both of them.
My Mom told Gus & I about Ray a few weeks or so after he stopped by her house. I remember how she sold him to us. She told us that he was an old friend, that he was a great guy who was super-nice to her, and then she gave us the kicker, & which went something like this: “Gus, he loves sports, & Scott, he likes investing in the stock market!”
Now, Gus & Ray definitely shared a simpatico interest in sports, so Mom really hit the nail on the head with that one. But with me, she was reaching. At the time I had a little bit of extra cash, so I had invested in a few stocks, but I had nowhere near the interest that Ray had. He really enjoyed playing the stock market daily, which I greatly respected. But that really wasn’t a common interest we shared. In fact, there were hardly any common interests we shared!
With one exception: we both loved my mother. And really, that was all we needed. Sure, we butted heads a few times, & I didn’t totally understand him, & he sure never fully understood me, but it didn’t matter. I loved that he loved my mother, & that he wanted to take care of her. He really treated her well, & if we didn’t, he would not hesitate to call us on it. It made me happy to know that my Mom was happy.
And actually, it turns out that Ray had excellent taste in women! Soon after meeting my then-girlfriend Robin, he sent me an email titled “Women” that said this:
you have found an exceptional lady. she is personable, intelligent and pretty. she is a keeper.
I have to say, that was very perceptive of him!
Over time, I learned other personality traits of Ray’s that I found admirable. Let me share a few stories that illustrate the kind of guy Ray was.
November 30, 2002 was just like any other day, when I saw an email in my INBOX from my Mom titled “News”. It read as follows:
Dear Gus & Scott,
This may come as a surprise, at least it seemed to be to Scott, but Ray and I have finally decided to get married on Dec. 8—if it suits you. He came to see me on Dec. 8 three years ago. It really won't change anything financially as we have already talked to Don Huff some time back when we were redoing all kinds of legal crap.
The amazing thing was that Mom didn’t think to invite my then-wife Denise & I to the wedding! When I pointed this out to her, she was horrified at the omission & immediately invited us to be the only attendants. I served as Best Man, which was quite an honor, & Denise stood next to my Mom.
Denise & I & our little Shih Tzu Libby arrived at the house in Marshall about 5 minutes before the judge was due to arrive. Mom & Ray joyously greeted us at the door, & as Denise & I stepped inside, Libby saw Josie the white cat & immediately took off after her. In the following 3 seconds, this is what happened: Josie bolted across the family room in a panic, got to the south wall, climbed up the window blinds at lightning speed, & slammed into the cornice board so hard that it separated from the wall & crashed down into the table in front of the window with an enormous boom. The cat, of course, was fine & ran off into the dining room. About then, the judge pulled up into the driveway.
During this whole time, the four of us—Mom, Ray, Denise, & I—just stood there with our mouths open, amazed and aghast. Well, three of us were. Ray was incredibly calm & cool about the whole thing, like this was a daily occurrence (it might have been, for all I know!), & he just looked at me & said “Come on” as we walked across the room & put the cornice board back up on the wall, where it has remained ever since.
Although none of us were really happy with Josie the cat that day, in general, Ray really loved animals. Now, granted, if you’re going to be with my Mom, you’d better love animals, or things are not going to work out. But Ray went above & beyond.
My Mom is the one who found Holly, but she was Ray’s dog. He loved that dog, & took her everywhere he went in his truck. After every meal, he fed her whatever was left on his plate. Whatever that dog wanted, Ray provided it. My Mom found out why he was so crazy about Holly when he told her one day that she was the first dog he’d ever had that was his.
And then a few years later, Mom discovered a little Corgi puppy that needed a home, so she brought him home. Again, this became Ray’s dog. He even named him. The first dog was Holly, named because she was found abandoned on a highway around Christmas. After a few moments’ reflection, he decreed that the new dog’s name would be … Buddy! Yes, Buddy and Holly. When my Mom pointed that out to Ray, he thought for a moment, & then pointed to the dogs & said, “They won’t care.” And they never have.
The following scene was repeated dozens of times every single day: Ray would be sitting in his chair. One of the dogs would move over by the back door. Ray would get up, walk over to the door, & open it so that the dog could go out. A few minutes later, he would get up, walk over to the door, & open it so that the dog could come back in. A little while later, one of the other dogs would move over by the back door. Ray would get up … well, you get the idea. As long as he was able, Ray took the dogs for walks every morning & night, but I’m almost certain that letting the dogs in & out of the back door about 25 times a day was his main form of exercise.
It wasn’t just dogs that Ray liked. My Mom mentioned to me once that the only time she ever saw him cry was when a kitten they’d been caring for died.
In fact, I’ll bet most of you don’t know that when it comes to cats, Ray actually acted very heroically. While they lived in Arrow Rock, my Mom started feeding the army of feral cats that lived in the town, & this quickly became a major production. Denise’s brother-in-law Ken was a veterinarian, & he offered to come to Arrow Rock from St. Louis & spay & neuter as many feral cats as Mom & Ray could catch.
Over the next few days, they put out traps & caught a good number of cats, & finally the big day came. Ken & Denise’s sister Sharon showed up with the operating equipment. The operating room? A table in the house. My Mom didn’t want to be around for that, so she left. Ray, however, stuck around & took the worst job: grabbing cats out of cages & bringing them over to the operating table. He was scratched, he was bit, he was not the cats’ favorite person that day. But he did it, & Ken & Sharon both later said that they simply could not have done it without him.
Ray very often was an amazing guy. He didn’t talk a lot, but he worked hard his whole life, he tried different things out in his career, & he did a lot of searching in his own way, trying to find that most elusive of things: happiness. Most importantly—& this is the thing we should all remember about him—he genuinely loved his family, my Mom & her sons, & their animals. And actually, he was pretty self-perceptive in many ways that could be surprising. One summer day in 2008, during the middle of that year’s presidential election, Ray sent an email to his 2 sons & his 2 step-sons that read as follows:
Holly and I just returned from our daily 1/2 mile walk in the park, and decided to share some of our thoughts with you guys on this beautiful, sunny morning, 15th day of June, 2008, in Arrow Rock.
First, I want to apologize for anything I have done or said in the past that bothered you. Some may have been deserved, some not.
I readily admit to, and know of, my short comings. I accept them, and sincerely hope they have not hurt too many, too seriously.
I am a critical, impatient, prejudiced, honest, conservative individual, and feel I have always been that way. There is not much I can do to change.
There is a big election coming up, and it seems to me that the competing factions grow more ridiculous and incredible each day.
Everyone needs to give a lot of thought to what and how they feel, and then do his thing.
So much for it all,
That was Ray Simonson. He was a good father, a good husband, & a good man, & he will be missed.