But on Friday nights, those who knew him well knew right where to find him: in Northcutt Stadium, watching his beloved Blue Devils.
“He didn’t have any sons, but he was a tried and true Marietta Blue Devils fan,” said his daughter, Joyce Self. “He went to all the away games.”
Friends, family and the community he served will gather today at Mayes Ward-Dobbins Funeral Home near the Marietta Square to mourn Ray, 84, who died Wednesday.
Hap Smith, a Marietta attorney, recalled the fun he had with Ray in Northcutt’s press box, where the two sat for many a football game.
“He and I both had a real love of high school football and helping young people in that program,” Smith said.
Ray kept the game clock for many years — a task Smith noted takes enormous concentration — before moving on to become the Blue Devils’ scorekeeper.
Among many other community roles, Ray served as a member of the Marietta Touch Down Club. He graduated from Marietta High in 1948.
Self, 60, of Powder Springs, said her father spent his life devoting time to others.
“He was a father figure to a lot of people that didn’t have a father,” she said.
Ray spent years facilitating emergency rescue in the county, founding Cobb’s Civil Defense Department and even bringing the first Jaws of Life set — a tool used to extract victims from wrecks — to the county.
“He saved so many lives in his role as an ambulance driver, and in the early days of civil defense,” Self said.
Self also recalled feeling and hearing the Atherton’s Drug Store explosion that rocked Marietta in 1963.
She said her father was among the first responders to the tragedy that claimed seven lives on Halloween night.
Ray served in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1953 at Fort Bragg before becoming vice president and co-owner of Mayes Ward-Dobbins, which he chaired until his retirement.
Terry Pendley, the funeral home’s current owner, has fond memories of the more than 30 years he spent working with Ray.
“He was very caring,” Pendley said. “He served a lot of families in a loving way over many, many years. Our business is any time, day or night, and James was always there for the families.”
“He was someone you could trust and go to and help you when you’d lost a loved one,” Smith agreed. “He had a great bedside manner.”
Self said her father’s favorite leadership roles included his involvement with the Cobb Fair Board and the Kennesaw Mountain Shrine Club. An active member of St. James Episcopal Church near the Square, Ray held several positions within the church for many years.
Ray is survived by his wife, Marian; daughters Debbie Ray, 56; Lisa Ray, 57; and Self and her husband, Steve; and stepson, Norman Coomer, all of Marietta.