Special Olympian fondly remembered
Special Olympian Paul Ray has been remembered by his family as a model of self-reliance despite suffering with Down syndrome.
Keen sportsman Mr Ray, who died on September 10 aged 60, brought home a silver medal for golf in the 2011 Special Olympics.
He also won a bronze medal in the equestrian category at the 1995 Special Olympics.
The Reverend John Chalmers closed a celebration of his life at Christ Church in Warwick this month with: “He was his own man.”
Mr Ray was known across the island through his career in the family business, Ray Brothers, as well as for work at Port Royal Golf Club and the charity WindReach Bermuda.
Donna Pink, his sister, said: “Paul was always very independent.
“When it was first confirmed that Paul had Down syndrome, our father treated him like any other child, and that side of Paul was always encouraged.”
A genetic disorder caused by an extra chromosome, Down syndrome failed to deter Mr Ray from a life of adventure on horseback and, later, out on the roads on his motorcycle.
Born to Rosaline and William “Cheese” Ray and later stepson to Josie Ray, he was sent overseas aged 12 to the Dr Franklin Perkins special education school in Massachusetts where he was educated in life skills as well as academics.
Although difficult for his parents, the decision proved a milestone in Mr Ray’s life. He was also tutored by Shelley Grace from Warwick Academy.
Along with Mrs Pink, Mr Ray was raised with sisters Sharon Davis, Carol Culver and Heather Manion.
Mr Ray’s discovery of an abandoned Mobylette at the back of the family’s stable became another turning point in his life.
After he restored the vehicle and rode it on the family’s property, his father bought him a motorcycle that eventually got upgraded to a 90cc bike.
Mrs Pink said Mr Ray passed his exams and “never looked back”.
Golf became another passion, and Mr Ray competed in several tournaments over the years. He was also a devoted member of the Lions Club.
His family completed a documentary, No Limits, in 2005 as a tribute to Mr Ray’s independence and to show other families the possibilities of life with Down syndrome.
Mr Ray was devoted to WindReach and volunteered there since it opened — and on occasion gave up birthday gifts to raise extra funds for the charity.
His role as Joseph in the annual Christmas nativity play became a WindReach tradition.
“I keep the place going,” Mr Ray told this newspaper in 2007 and listed the names and personalities of the farm animals.
Sociable and attuned to the feelings of others, Mr Ray “loved people, and was loved by everyone who knew him”, his sister said.
Known to his family as Paulie, Mr Ray became a celebrity after the airing of the documentary on his life.
He was keen on country music and an avid watcher of television and film.
He was once invited to play a round of golf by actor Michael Douglas, and also appeared on live TV coverage of the PGA Grand Slam to shake hands with the finalists.
In an obituary written by his family, Mr Ray was remembered as having “a special gift of spreading love”.
It added: “His sensitive, innocent soul made him easy to love in return.”
“He was an enigma, and embodied everything that is good and pure. He gave without looking for reward, he helped wherever he saw a need, and found joy in things as simple as snuggling his little dog.
“He enriched our lives in so many ways, and leaves behind lessons for us all in compassion, acceptance and unconditional love.”
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