Robert K. “Rob” Ray, a general contractor and avid Orioles and Ravens fan who was a founder of Ravens Nest 9 in Parkville, died Feb. 23 of COVID-19 at Franklin Square Medical Center. The Nottingham resident was 52.
“Rob was real outgoing, and whenever I picture him, he’s always laughing. He was really a fun person to be around,” said Chris Chamberlin, who became a friend when he was 4 years old. “He was one of those people who was a friend to all and always wanted to help.”
Robert Kirk Ray, son of Charlie Ray, a mechanic, and his wife, Hazel Ray, a Baltimore County public schools bus driver, was born a twin in Towson. Mr. Ray, who was the second twin, was born naturally 16 minutes behind his brother, Paul, with both babies weighing in at 8.5 pounds, family members said.
“I met Rob and Paul in 1974, I was 4 years old, and we’ve been good friends ever since, and they were the best friends I ever had,” Mr. Chamberlin said.
Mr. Ray and his siblings grew up in a small rowhouse on East 37th Street in Ednor Gardens, in the shadow of the old Memorial Stadium. He attended Waverly Elementary School and Winston Middle School and was a 1986 graduate of Northern High School, now Reginald Lewis High School, with a vocational diploma.
“We were just all blue-collar Baltimore kids who lived near Memorial Stadium. We played baseball in the streets where the maintenance hole cover was home plate and a crack was first base,” recalled Mr. Chamberlin, a Catonsville resident. “Sometimes we’d play on the asphalt parking lot at the stadium with a ball that we had wrapped in duct tape, and Rob was able to hit it inside Memorial Stadium.”
During their high school years, the twin brothers worked for the Orioles in the sales and promotion office, with one of the brothers dressing up as the visiting team’s mascot.
“Rob loved to tell the story of how he accidentally broke the Oriole Bird’s finger,” said his wife of 15 years, the former Jennifer Hodorovich, a civil engineer. “They had a skit where they were supposed to wrestle and Rob came down and ended up breaking the Oriole Bird’s finger.”
After high school, Mr. Ray held several jobs and became a sales manager at Best and later worked in an auto shop, until he and his siblings opened their own office furniture business. In 2015, he and his brother Paul founded Twin Contractors, and then joined their brother Darren who owned an office furniture business, where they were general contractors and installers.
Mr. Ray became active in the Jaycees when his brother Darren took him to an event as a teenager, which resulted in the twin brothers joining. “And it changed their lives forever,” said his wife. “They were the face of the Towson Jaycees, helping at every project and mentoring new members. Rob was the one especially who always reached out to make people feel welcome and part of the group.”
The Jaycees would also prove valuable in another way, because it was where he would meet his future wife, who later became Jaycees USA national president, when both were attending a social event in 2001 that was being held at Hops, now the Greene Turtle sports bar, in Owings Mills.
A first date would not come until 2002, after Ms. Hodorovich had turned down his requests for a date three times, and then she had a change of heart and asked him out. He proposed in 2005, and loved telling the story that she never even bothered to look at the ring, and answered with a resounding “Yes.” They married the next year.
The couple spent their honeymoon in the Bahamas, the first time Mr. Ray had ever flown in an airplane, and then he became a devout world traveler. “She literally took him all over the world,” Mr. Chamberlin said.
Mr. Ray’s volunteerism with the Jaycees was at the center of his life.
“Giving back and helping out is what Rob did. Whether it was to throw on a dress and jump in the ocean to raise money for charity, organize the charity golf tournament for the Jaycees, or come up with any random ideas of how we could help raise awareness and money for different causes, we did it,” Ms. Ray wrote in a biographical profile. “Rob made a huge impact with the Towson Chamber of Commerce as well.”
Mr. Ray was a lifetime member of the Maryland Jaycees and JCI USA. He was also a Maryland Jaycees Militia major, a JCI USA ambassador and a JCI USA senator, the highest honor in the international organization, his wife said. He also held positions with the organization on the national level.
A gregarious man with an outsize personality and a capacity for friendship, Mr. Ray enjoyed working as a beer man at the annual Maryland State Fair in Timonium. “Everyone knew him and Paul. Quite frankly EVERYONE knew Rob everywhere he went,’ Ms. Ray wrote. “He had a network of friends throughout the Baltimore region and beyond.”
He enjoyed spending time at an Ocean City condo that he and his wife owned, driving to Assateague Island to see the ponies on the beach, spending Thanksgivings at the resort and attending the annual Winterfest of Lights. He was also a devoted Orioles and Ravens fan and was a founder of Ravens Nest 9 in Parkville.
Mr. Ray’s life changed dramatically Super Bowl weekend when he wasn’t feeling well and learned that a friend had tested positive for COVID-19 on Feb. 4.
On Feb. 9, Mr. Ray and his wife had appointments to be tested. The next day, his wife found out she was positive, and on Feb. 11, he was notified that he was positive.
Mr. Ray was transferred to the intensive care unit at Franklin Square Medical Center on Feb.16 and was placed on a ventilator.
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Ms. Ray was unable to have any physical contact and could only look at him through a window.
On Sunday, Feb. 21, Ms. Ray was told he was seriously ill, and might not make it.
On Feb. 23, the telephone rang in her home in Nottingham.
“Even though they told me he may not make it, I still had hope, I was sure he was coming home to me,” she said in a telephone interview. “They called me at home two days later and said that Rob had died, and after he died, I went in to be with him.”
“Rob was larger than life with an enormous smile, infectious laugh, and had a way to make everyone feel better,” Ms. Ray wrote.
Due to the pandemic, plans for services are incomplete.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Ray is survived by his father, Charlie Ray of Medfield; three brothers, Paul Ray of Nottingham, Gary Ray of Medfield and Darren Ray of Pasadena; a sister, Nancy Norat of Mount Airy; a foster sister, Terri Feliciano of Kentucky; and many nieces and nephews.