In Memoriam: Bishop Tom Ray ‘59

The Rt. Rev. Thomas K. Ray, Class of 1959 and recipient of an honorary doctorate in 1984, died on February 6, 2018, at the age of 83. He died within three days of his beloved wife Brenda, who died on February 3 at the age of 81. Married for 59 years, they had both lived with long term illnesses for the past ten years and died in their home in Northern Michigan, surrounded by loving family members.

The Ray’s moved to Marquette, MI in 1982 when Tom became the Episcopal bishop of Northern Michigan, a position he held for 17 years until his retirement. Ray’s career was marked by early leadership for women’s and gay rights in the Episcopal church of Saint Luke’s of Evanston, Illinois, and as bishop of Northern Michigan he continued that leadership at the national level. He and many others who joined him, including his long-time colleague and successor Bishop Jim Kelsey, put the Diocese of Northern Michigan on the map as one of the founding sites of a new movement within the church called Mutual Ministry. Members of many Protestant churches in the U.S and internationally travelled to the UP to learn about changes that, as Ray described, “pushed back against the hierarchical infantilizing of adult Christians who are considered second class citizens if they were not ordained.”

Mrs. Ray helped found the Marquette chapter of Habitat for Humanity; she was a member of two book clubs in town for 25 years, and active in the Episcopal Church. She earned a degree in sociology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and later her teaching degree and taught in the Evanston, Illinois public school district. At U of M she met fellow graduate Tom Ray who had grown up in the small conservative town of Manistee, Michigan. After he graduated from General Seminary, they were married in Grand Rapids in 1959 and took their honeymoon in the Upper Peninsula, thus beginning what would be their 60 year love affair. Soon they had four children and were living in Marion, Indiana where Tom was minister of Gethsemane Episcopal Church for ten years.

The Ray’s are survived by four children, Jennifer , Christopher, Tim, and Geoff Ramsey-Ray, and 12 grandchildren. A Celebration of Life was held on Saturday, February 24 at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church on Ridge St. in Marquette, followed by a 2 PM memorial service at the church. The service was presided by Northern Michigan Episcopal Bishop Rayford Ray and the Reverend Lydia Kelsey Bucklin.

Memories and condolences may be shared at The Canale-Tonella Funeral Home.