A key voice in the preservation, protection and promotion of Marietta’s art, architecture and history, widely known and respected picture framer Ray Worden died Thursday. He was 61.
Friends and Marietta leaders say Worden’s absence on the many boards and organizations he served will be a huge loss to the city.
Worden’s viewing will be at Mayes Ward-Dobbins funeral home in Marietta from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday. His funeral is 11 a.m. Monday at the First Baptist Church of Marietta.
Worden was a member and chairman of the Marietta Cobb Museum of Art for over 14 years, a chairman and member of both the Marietta Historic Board of Review and Marietta Historic Preservation Commission, and a member of Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society.
He was also on the Downtown Marietta Development Authority and fought hard for the historic structures and cultural heritage of Marietta and Cobb County, friends and colleagues say.
His business, Worden’s Picture Framing and Gallery on Kennesaw Avenue, was always a welcoming place to stop by for a chat, longtime friend and Marietta Councilman Johnny Walker said Friday.
“He’s what I call a true gentleman, the nicest guy I’ve ever met,” Walker said. “He was very kind and gentle and cared about our community, but the No. 1 thing that I’ll remember is his love for his family — he loved his kids and loved his wife and you just knew when you talked to him that he was a family man and family came first.”
Worden’s wife, Leigh Ann, is a teacher. Their daughter, Anna, 19, is a rising sophomore at the University of Georgia, and their son Jack, 17, is a rising senior at Marietta High School.
Walker served with Worden on Marietta’s Historic Board of Review and Historic Preservation Commission and said the man behind “incredible framing work” ensured things were done properly when it came to the city’s art, history and architecture.
“There was just something about Ray and this is a real loss for our city,” Walker said. “He was a talented guy who cared about Marietta and always put a lot of thought into his decisions.”
Marietta Cobb Museum of Art executive director Sally Macaulay said any time an issue arose, Worden would find a way to solve it.
“That’s one of the things I loved most about him,” she told the MDJ. “He loved the arts and the museum and every aspect of everything we do at the museum he’s had his hand in.”
Macaulay said Worden helped her get a position on the museum’s board before encouraging her to apply for the executive director position 11 years ago, and that he was a voice of reason for all who knew him.
“He was a great guy,” she said. “You could talk to him about anything and he would listen.”
Worden was the brains behind the museum’s quarterly Martinis and Music nights, and a visionary for its annual Chalktoberfest event on Marietta Square, Macaulay said.
“He just always found time to do everything and help where he could, he was very philanthropic in that way,” she said. “We’ll miss him terribly.”
Worden, who grew up in east Cobb and graduated from Wheeler High School, was one of several locals strongly opposed to a plan in 2010 to bulldoze the two-story Cuthbertson building on North Park Square and replace it with a five-story, 22,000-square-foot office building.
That proposal, by former Marietta Councilman Philip Goldstein, never eventuated.
“How apropos that this five-story building flanked by two-story buildings would appear to be giving the one-finger salute to the rest of the town,” Worden said of the proposal at the time.
Rebecca Paden, who was appointed to the Historic Preservation Commission alongside Worden over a decade ago, said his background in architectural studies at Georgia Tech was a great help.
“We didn’t have a city architect and he was able to use his background in architecture through the years as different issues came up,” she said. “It’s been really great to have Ray’s expertise in that field.”
Paden, the current vice president for both the historic preservation commission and board of review, said Worden’s passion for historic preservation and his love for his family was ever present, and he was instrumental in the implementation of ordinances for designated historic districts in Marietta.
“He spoke well and knew what he was talking about, and would go out and speak to the people,” she said. “One of the things I’m going to miss the most is talking with him about upcoming issues and bouncing ideas off each other.”
In March last year, Worden’s sister, Teri Worden Wright, established a GoFundMe account to raise money for Worden’s cancer treatment, securing $31,575.
Worden’s health had seemed to improve, and his passing this week felt sudden, friend and former art museum board member Sam Parker said.
He described Worden as an incredible handyman who could fix anything, and a devoted husband and father.
“He was one of the best people I’ve ever known, a friend to everyone who would do anything for you,” Parker said. “He was very much about his family, his wife and his two kids were his life.”
Marietta, and the city’s art museum in particular, were lucky to have Worden as an advocate, Parker said.
“In my mind, he remade that museum into what it is today — a very popular spot with a lot of activities and full-time employees. Ray was a big fan of the city and very much into the history of Marietta and preserving that history.”