Life Story Service
Life Story Reception
Friday, June 23, 2023
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Where food, drinks, and stories will be shared.
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Hal Ray was a loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend to many. A Renaissance man, his incredible integrity was woven throughout a lifetime of hard work and dedicated service to his community. His family, teaching, and sports were his greatest treasures. Hal leaves behind a rich collection of memories for his special friends and family to cherish forever.
Reflecting on the year 1929, the media was focused on jazz musicians and the booming auto industry until the market crashed that fateful October. Harold Boyd was born on January 12th in Buffalo, New York. At three weeks old, he was adopted by Edwin & Cora Bagg and became known as Harold Bagg. In 1934 a tragic car accident left Edwin a widower, and Harold spent a brief time in an orphanage. As a result of living through the Great Depression era, Hal learned the value of a hard day’s work from an early age. Before junior high school, Harold was adopted by Edwin Bagg’s daughter Alice and her husband Raymond Ray and was renamed Harold Lloyd Ray. Growing up in upstate New York, Hal lived a memorable childhood. He remembers when electricity was installed for the first time throughout the valley where he lived. He spent countless summers helping on local farms or working in his father’s hardware store. Because of his striking resemblance to the boy in ads for Buster Brown shoes, locals nicknamed him Bus, and “Uncle Bus” is the name still used by his nieces in Southwest New York. Hal attended a small school, lettering in baseball and basketball, and graduated as Valedictorian of his class of just thirteen students.
His athletic prowess in town-team baseball landed him a spot on a semi-pro baseball team as their pitcher for one season before he set his sights on education. Hal chose Syracuse University for both his undergrad studies and his master’s degree. Once graduated, he joined the United States Air Force during the Korean War where he proudly served his country for four years. During his time in the service, he married his love, Shirley Walcott, on June 9, 1952, in Washington, D.C. Not quite done with his education, he went on to The Ohio State University to earn his doctorate in physical education, serving on the athletic staff with Woody Hayes. Hal and Shirley chaperoned the 1958 Rose Bowl trip taking a trainload of OSU students to Pasadena for the Rose Parade and big game. There was no doubt that Dr. Hal Ray would accomplish much as an educator and coach, starting with a teaching position in Mentor Shores, Ohio.
Kalamazoo, Michigan became his new home when he began the path toward tenured professor on the campus of Western Michigan University in 1960. During his first sabbatical in 1970, Hal was able to take his family on a six-month tour of Europe in a VW camper. They visited nearly every cathedral, art museum, and historical site, making a lasting impression on the entire family. His second sabbatical, in 1981, was spent in Spain and Portugal. Teaching meant everything to Hal. He was proud to share the success stories of his students, including one who wrote the first book on karate in Arabic. During his tenure, Hal developed a course titled, The Ethics of Sport, and taught for more than thirty remarkable years before he retired in 1991. A highlight of these years was receiving the Excellence in Teaching Award for his work with undergraduate students. The award is a high honor and Hal was more than deserving due to his commitment to the program over the years.
It was no surprise that his love of physical education would lead him to be dedicated to sports, including lifelong trials as a Detroit Tigers and Lions fan. He cherished being the head statistician for WMU football for fifty-six years. During these years, Hal co-authored two books. The first book was on sports metaphors titled, “Sports Talk–A Dictionary of Sports Metaphors.” The second was titled, “The History of WMU Sports,” which was a thorough history of the seasons of several WMU teams. Hal was blessed with a wonderful career, and he was proud to share the history of the teams and his knowledge as well. His time at Western shaped many long-lasting friendships, even during the challenge of serving as Department Chair through the difficult melding of Men’s and Women’s athletic staffs into the combined HPER (Health, Phys Ed, Recreation) Department. Hal loved to meet up with his former colleagues every month to catch up and discuss a wide variety of topics. He served as historian and photographer for state and national organizations, presenting papers at national and international conferences. A great listener and genuine person, he had a way of making everyone feel special in his presence, being an avid collector of people’s life stories.
His life would not have been as great without his lifelong partner in learning and dance, Shirley, by his side. The pair completed over 100 Elderhostels and were avid ballroom dancers through their Coterie club. Hal even competed in WMU’s own Dancing With The Stars! Music touched his soul. Whenever he heard music, he started tapping his feet, even if he was in bed! Sadly, Shirley passed away. As Hal leaned on his family and friends for support, Dr. Louise Forsleff invited him to attend a local Hospice grief group together after both of their spouses had died. Her late husband and Hal were members of the Westside Kiwanis Club together. Eventually, he and Louise formed a beautiful companionship. She gave Hal his life back after he had dutifully taken care of Shirley through ten years of illness. Over the years he and Louise were together, they traveled to her home state of Maine to visit family. Her family fell in love with Hal, and he adopted her state as his own. Hal was convinced that God had plans for the two of them.
In addition to his outstanding career, family, and travel, Hal was a history buff particularly interested in the Civil War and Native American tribes including western art, especially Remington, Russell and George Catlin, and sport art in any form. He loved the theater and attending Broadway shows, saving every Playbill. He had numerous run-ins with big stars, perhaps by good fortune or just random luck. A couple worth mentioning were seeing Henry Fonda in Mr. Roberts and being seated just three rows behind Princess Diana and her sons while seeing Phantom of the Opera in London. Hal was also thrilled to meet Blackjack Pershing while at Walter Reed Hospital years ago. Although his life had many transitions in the beginning, Hal’s life was focused on service to the community, his church, Meals-on-Wheels, and many years hosting international social workers so they could attend summer programs at WMU. His honesty, generosity, and sincere compassion for others will be his greatest legacies. May we honor his Life Story with each new destination we explore, sports team we cheer on, or dance we share with that special someone.
Dr. Harold “Hal” Ray, age 94, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, died on May 26, 2023. He was preceded in death by his wife, Shirley. Surviving are his children: Andrew (Alison) Ray and Christopher (Kristin) Ray; grandchildren: Miranda, Jeremy, Alexander, and Tony; and his life partner, Dr. Louise Forsleff and family.
A Life Story Service will be held Friday, June 23, 2023, at 4 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900. A reception will follow in the Life Story Center where food, drinks, and stories will be shared. A formal burial will be held at Fort Custer National Cemetery. Visit Hal’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and to sign his guestbook. Memorials may be made to Centrica Care Navigators or an organization of your choice.