John J. Ray, a retired Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. administrator of quality assurance who was a founding member of St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Church in Northeast Baltimore, died July 12 of acute myeloid leukemia at his Parkville home. He was 82.
"Jack was a great guy, father and husband. He was a person you admired because he was a great family man, and you could see that in his interaction with his family," said City Councilman Carl Stokes, a longtime friend. "He was also a good church guy, and I always admired how he lived his life and how close he was to his family."
"Jack was a person who did not know how to say no," said Michael P. McCoy, who is permanent deacon at St. Thomas More. "He was a man of strong faith. He was a man of energy."
The son of John J. Ray Sr., a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad accountant, and Amelia Hunter Ray, a homemaker, John Joseph Ray was born in Baltimore and spent his early years in the city's Barclay neighborhood and then West Baltimore.
Because of his father's work, he was also raised in Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio, where he graduated in 1950 from Mount St. John High School, a Marianist school. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1954 from what is now Loyola University Maryland.
Mr. Ray began his career with BGE in 1954, and the next year, was drafted into the Army and served with the 8th Infantry Division in Germany for a year.
He returned to BGE, where he became administrator of quality assurance for the company's information systems department. He retired in 1992.
Mr. Ray was a founding member in 1960 of St. Thomas More, and for 54 years remained active in all aspects of the parish. He was a regular at the daily 6:30 a.m. Mass.
He served four terms as director of the parish council and enjoyed working with the church's youth. He had been coordinator and coach of the Catholic Youth Organization soccer program and had served as a youth minister.
In recognition of his work with young people at the church, the Archdiocese of Baltimore presented Mr. Ray its CYO Medal of Honor in 1979.
Along with his friend Mr. McCoy, he established the Catholic Men's Fellowship. Because he was in charge of snacks during the church's Vacation Bible School, he earned the sobriquet of "Snack Jack."
"To this day, young people in their 20s who knew him then still call him by that nickname," said a daughter, Kelley Ray, a community activist who lives in Parkville.
"He was a lector and a Eucharistic minister. We served together on the parochial school board," said Mr. McCoy of Hamilton, who was a friend for more than 40 years.
A bass, Mr. Ray also sang with the St. Thomas More Choir and since 2002 had been the church's "old sign maker," his daughter said.
"When the opportunity arose, he readily took it on and graced the church property entrance sign with words from Scriptures, the saints, philosophers, and sages from all over," said Ms. Ray.
"One of his most memorable signs was the first time the Ravens went to the Super Bowl: 'God doesn't show favorites; But the sign guy does; Go Ravens,' " recalled his daughter.
In addition to his work at the church, he volunteered and headed the senior committee at the HARBEL Community Organization that serves the Belair and Harford road communities and volunteered at Good Samaritan Hospital.
"Jack volunteered here for a number of years, and he would greet people at the front desk in the Russell Morgan Building. He helped them get to where they needed to go," said Jerry Egan, director of training and human resources at Good Samaritan.
"He was a great ambassador and a very kind man. He had a welcoming spirit and wanted to assist people. He was a calming presence," Mr. Egan said.
Mr. Ray was also known at the hospital for the homemade cinnamon pecans he brought to the staff at Christmastime.
Mr. Ray immersed himself in politics when his daughter ran unsuccessfully in 1994 for the House of Delegates with Mr. Stokes and again unsuccessfully the next year for the 1st District City Council seat.
"He was bit by the political bug," said Ms. Ray. "As a result, he served as a volunteer in a number of other political campaigns in the city and Baltimore County."
Mr. Ray enjoyed singing with community choruses and for 24 years was a member of Amhranai Na Gaeilge — better known as The Irishman's Chorale — and had served as its secretary since 1997.
Fellow bass Mike Ryan, former president and the surviving original member of The Irishman's Chorale, described Mr. Ray as having an"excellent voice.
"Jack was also a very low-key, behind-the-scenes kind of guy who would do anything to avoid conflict. He did not like conflict and had a very strong sense of this," he said. "He also had a wonderfully quirky sense of humor."
Mr. Ray met his future wife, Mary Joan Kellermann, when the couple took a 1955 bus trip to New York City sponsored by the Veterans Missionary Crusade, of which they were both members. They married that year.
Mr. Ray and his wife enjoyed traveling by car, bus, train and plane, and had taken a number of cruises.
Mr. Ray donated his body to the Maryland Anatomy Board. A Mass of Celebration will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday at his church, 6806 McClean Blvd.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Ray is survived by his son, Michael Ray of Bel Air; two other daughters, Kim Noppenberger of Catonsville and Jennifer Fisher of Parkville; and 10 grandchildren.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun