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A Brother Remembers: John Edward Ray

John Edward Ray was born June 17th, 1932 in Caddo County, Oklahoma – the fourth of eleven children born to Clarence and Alta Buchanan Ray. Clarence ad Alta were both natives of Douglas county, MO. Edd spent his younger years in Okla. Then, about age seven, moved east of Ava for a short time before Dad and Mom bought a farm in Ozark Co. between Almartha and Wasola, moving their growing family there about 1940.

Edd finished growing up there, walking behind a horse drawn plow, picking rock, cutting sprouts, milking cows, feeding beef, cows and hogs, and all that other work that went with farming.

Edd graduated from Ava High School in 1951 – joined the U.S. Army in 1952. After boot camp, he was assigned to a tour of duty in West Point, New York. While there he met the love of his life, Patricia Aumauk. They soon married and eventually had four girls and one boy – John Edward Ray, Jr. Edd had several tours of duty stateside and overseas before being sent to Vietnam August 19th, 1968 with the 1st Batallion-14th Artillery, American Division. Edd was killed in action May 13th, 1969 in South Vietnam, ?vang Tin-LZ professional.

Edd’s men under him called him “Chief” or “Smoke”. Edd’s rank in Vietnam was SFC/E7. Joe Swofford has taken a lot of time studying the history of this battle and told me the next hill where the artillery was set up, out of respect and admiration for their former “Chief of Smoke”, they named the hill “LZ Ray”. LZ stands for Landing Zone. Joe and his wife Rita is our nephew and niece.

When John Edward Ray, Jr. was about 20 years of age, he came for  a visit a few months before his Grandma Ray passed on, the white Bass Run was going on- I offered to take him fishing late one afternoon and he quickly accepted the invitation. We got to the Haskins Ford Area about hour before dark, unloaded our 2-man boat and gear and was in a good fishing spot before total darkness set in as I’ve heard it called “The witching hour.”

No one was in our way and within two hours we had all the nice sized white bass we wanted to clean – I won’t say how many, Edd Jr. had never fished for white bass, but landed about two to my one, just like his dad would probably have done. We were tired and quiet most of the way home and like his dad would have done, had lit a cigarette – I watched hin in the semi-darkness in the cab of my old pickup truck, his position of how he sat, of how he held his cigarette, and the profile was ghostly similar to his dad. I had an eerie strange feeling til he spoke up with that New York accent – I felt like I had been on a fishing trip with my brother who had left this earth 20 years before but in a way, was there with me like it should have been.

-Lee Ray