LAKEMORE Family, friends, first responders and villagers gathered at the site of the newly constructed road, the back entrance to Lakemore Plaza, to dedicate it as Kenny Ray Jr. Memorial Parkway.
The date of April 30 was chosen for the road dedication as it would have been Ray Jr.'s 36th birthday. He lost his life in an accident three years ago at the Timken Company where he worked as a police officer.
The dedication ceremony was opened with a prayer by Ndubuisi Nwade of the Bethel Seventh Day Adventist Church in Lakemore.
Liz Ray, Kenny’s mother, was then introduced by Mayor Rick Justice and she spoke to the crowd that had gathered to honor the family.
“We are incredibly blessed to have had so much support from so many of you throughout the past three years," she said.
Liz Ray said Lakemore has always been such a wonderful community, “the place I have called home for my entire life.”
The community is family to the Ray’s and the police officers and firemen are like a family to each other.
“That is why Kenny liked them so much,” she said.
Ray Jr. was a firefighter and police officer. Liz Ray said she could never express how much everyone means to them.
“We love you all so much and may God bless you and keep you," she said.
Sam Ray, Kenny’s brother, then spoke to the crowd telling childhood stories about his older brother. He looked back in history at special events that happened on April 30 - George Washington was inaugurated, The U.S. Navy was established, the ice cream cone was invented and 36 years ago, “God blessed my parents with their first-born son named Kenneth Bruce Ray Jr.,” he said.
Sam Ray spoke about how his brother was infatuated with firefighting.
“His fire engines out numbered my Power Rangers about 2 to 1 in our bedroom,” he said.
Ray Jr. joined Green’s Explorers’ program when he was old enough.
“He studied with our grandfather," Sam Ray said. "He become a first responder in Lakemore under Chief Bittner, then in Uniontown and later in Atwater. Saving people’s lives from fires wasn’t enough for him. He wanted to be so much like his father that he went through the police academy at Kent State University and became a volunteer police officer in Brady Lake.”
Ray Jr. eventually met his future wife, Itsy. Sam Ray said she was the driving force in his brother's life, and she was there to reel him in when needed.
“You not only made him the happiest man, but you made him a better man,” Sam Ray said to Itsy. “We are better off today, by having you in our family.”
He thanked all that were a part of the process of building the road and holding the dedication.
“Kenny wanted nothing else but to save and preserve life. If he was able to give his life, I ask what can I do today? How can I make a difference? Every time you look at this sign, every time you drive down this street, I want you to remember who my brother was and ask yourself. What can I do today? We may only be single drops in this ocean but together we bring a tide. Thank you all so much,” said Sam Ray.
Liz Ray climbed the ladder and removed the cover reveling the name of the new road, Kenny Ray Jr. Memorial Parkway.
The members of the Lakemore Police Department presented the family with a wreath they had made to honor Ray Jr. Officer Tony Molea said, “We love you guys. You are family to us.”
Justice thanked the Ray family for all they do for the village.
Ray Jr.'s grandmonther, Bobbie Jean Ray, said she is glad she could be at the event,
“It was really something special," she said.
Bobbie Jean Ray said her husband (deceased) had helped Ray Jr. pass his test. She said Ray Jr. used to call her about everyday and tell her that every time he did something good, he thought about his Paw Paw (grandfather).
"He never forgot,” she said.
Ken Ray Sr., who is Lakemore's police chief, said, “I have my immediate family but this whole area is an extended family. These people are all family," said Ken Ray Sr., who is the Lakemore Police chief, as he nodded toward those gathered.
He feels an attachment to all three generations in the village and in Springfield Township.
“What is great is that if someone is in need everyone pitches in," Ray Sr. said.
Ray Jr. has lived his whole life in the Springfield/Lakemore area, and he said people look at it as two communities “but it really is one,” said Ken.
Family members Liz, Ken, Sam, sister Jen and Itsy gathered around the flower bed and sign to have pictures taken with the first responders of the village and Uniontown. They spent a lot of time giving hugs and saying thank you to the many friends and family that had gathered to honor a beloved village family and a fallen friend.