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YMCA co-founder Ray dies

Published 12:16pm Saturday, October 2, 2010

· See obituary, here

FRANKLIN—Robert Camp Ray, a longtime supporter of the community and one of the co-founders of the James L. Camp Jr. YMCA in Franklin, died Tuesday at his home in Florida. He was 92.

Local leaders saddened by the news praised Ray’s devotion to the city he once called home.

“He carried on the wonderful tradition of the Camp family of investing in the quality of life of Franklin,” Mayor Jim Councill said Friday. “He loved this town and was a wonderful benefactor. He always remained interested in the town, even though he had moved away many years ago.”

Ray was born on Nov. 11, 1917, to Sallie Camp Ray and Burton Justice Ray. He was raised in Franklin and graduated from Franklin High School. A World War II veteran, he and his father started Franklin Concrete Products. He retired and moved to Colorado in 1977, then to Tampa, Fla., in 1994.

The Camp YMCA was chartered in December 1955, and programs started shortly thereafter in June 1956. Ray was one of the leaders in the campaign to raise funds to build the original YMCA building in 1968, raising a significant amount of the money himself.

“Mr. Ray was a very instrumental leader for years,” Carter Hotchkiss, president of the Board of Directors for the Camp YMCA, said Friday. “He was instrumental not only as a founding member, but most importantly he has consistently been able to make sure that all facets of the Y have continued to grow and prosper for the benefit of the Franklin-Southampton area community. He will be deeply missed and our sympathies go to his family.”

“He lived the Y,” Councill added. “Bob was certainly the key person behind the whole thing.”

Eight years after the Camp YMCA was founded, Ray helped form and fund the W. Martin Pearson YMCA Endowment Fund. The fund was a precursor to the new Robert Camp Ray YMCA Foundation, which began last year with an endowment and capital reserve fund that combined totaled more than $1.2 million.

Elliott Whitfield, president of the Ray Foundation board, traveled to Florida in May 2009 with Tom Pearson and Brian Hedgepeth to visit Ray. They wanted to discuss the upcoming merger with the YMCA of South Hampton Roads, and to present him with a resolution honoring him for his longtime commitment to the Camp YMCA.

“We had a wonderful visit with him,” Whitfield said Friday. “He was very sharp and was physically in good shape. He wanted to know about everybody that ever lived in Franklin that he knew, and how things were going in Franklin. We couldn’t decide when we got back whether it was more uplifting for us or for him. We were just very glad that we went. It was a good trip.”

“He was a great guy,” Whitfield said. “Those of us who have known him a long time will miss him. You hate to lose somebody that’s been around for so long. Even though he hasn’t been around here in a long time, he’s stayed in touch. He’ll be missed.”

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