On October 21, 2016, Joplin Family Y Property Manager Ray Bresee passed away after a short and sudden illness. And while the loss of a co-worker is always difficult, Ray’s death has affected us on a particularly profound level for a number of reasons.
Ray was only 58. For nearly half his life, Ray had been the Joplin Family Y’s property manager. He was a constant presence. Ray knew our buildings inside and out and could repair anything. Maybe not well, but he could get it going for a while until it broke again. (Personally, I am convinced he kept my office at a constant temperature of 55 degrees year-round just to mess with me.)
Ray was a character. Many people didn’t think they’d like him when they first met him, but he grew on you quickly and you started looking forward to seeing him. How could you not like a guy who named his parrot “Mr. Green Jeans” and taught it to say, “I’m gonna kick your #$&!”
Once you were his friend, you received a nickname. It wasn’t always an endearing nickname, but chances were it suited you. Mine was “One-Beer-Stagger.” I would have preferred “One-Wine-Stagger” because it’s classier, but Ray was all about telling it like it was.
During his years on the job, the Y became his second home and the staff became his family. He deep fried the turkey for our office Thanksgiving party every year. He cooked it in his workshop, which is in our parking garage. I used to joke that his secret ingredient was motor oil. He injected the bird with all kinds of herbs and spices, and it was actually really tasty. And just to let everyone know, if we ever uncover that deep fryer from underneath the mess in his shop, I’ve got dibs on it.
I discovered Ray had depth beneath that gruff exterior at a staff retreat. We went around the room talking about what brought us to the Y and what keeps us here. When we got to Ray, I thought sarcastically, “Here we go … this is going to be good.” Well, shame on me, because Ray opened up and became teary-eyed telling us how important the Y was to him because we were his family. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
Ray was laid to rest in a simple graveside service on an incredibly beautiful fall day. The service opened with a whistling rendition of the theme song from the “Andy Griffith Show.” There were hundreds of people there. I believe former Y Board Member Greg Carter summed it up best when he said:
"When you go to a service for a guy like Ray, and see as many former staff, former and current board members, and former and current officers in attendance as I did, it stresses the fact that it really is a Joplin Family Y."
Rest in peace, Raymond. Our family will never be the same without you.
Written by Kim Gray