Opinion: Remembering my role model

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Commentary by Ward Degler

He was my role model.

I had just married his sister-in-law and was preparing to join the Catholic Church. I had come from a different faith, and frankly, I didn’t know what to expect.

Ray Riley showed me. He was kind and slow to make decisions, but when faced with sticky family situations, he knew exactly what needed to be said.

He was a man of principle, knew his strengths and his limitations, and, as far as I knew, always had something good to say about everyone. He constantly had a slight smile on his face as though he had just thought of something funny.

He showed me how to be a faithful husband, father and the spiritual head of the family. The latter was important because I’m talking about my wife’s children and her family.

Because of Ray’s quiet strength, I assimilated into the family and took the leadership role as my responsibility. I could devote myself to my faith, family, friends and even strangers.

As a student at Butler University, Ray played basketball for Tony Hinkle and reached star status. When I first met Ray, he was a teacher, coach and principal at Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis.

Several years ago, Ray was afflicted with an unidentified virus. It disabled his arm and leg, and after a few years, it put him in a wheelchair. Although this slowed him down, he remained front and center at family gatherings, quietly dispensing his brand of wisdom.

Two years ago, his illness progressed to the point he had to accept round-the-clock nursing care. He died earlier this month. He was 92.

I am grateful for the years I knew Ray. It just wasn’t enough.

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