Raymond “Ray” C. Szymoniak, 89, of Onaway, died at home Tuesday, February 9, 2021. Born June 23, 1931 in Millersburg, Ray was the son of Casmir and Barbara (Lisowski) Szymoniak. He married the love of his life, Ruth Rogers, October 11, 1952 in Onaway.
Ray met Ruth in 11th grade when students from Millersburg transferred to the Onaway School. They dated during their junior and senior years of high school and after graduation went their separate ways. It wasn’t until Ruth’s Grandpa Rogers became ill that Ray and Ruth reunited and eventually married. After they married, Ray sailed on the Great Lakes but didn’t care to be away from his family and home. He decided to leave his job on the freighters and began barber school in Detroit where he worked for two years before returning home to Onaway. Ray planned on opening his own barbershop but there wasn’t any space available to rent in town. Ruth’s father, Ralph Rogers, mortgaged his cattle to help Ray get started. Ray’s Barber Shop opened February 7, 1958 where Ray cut hair until his retirement in 1993.
Ray enjoyed cutting hair. He met many people and made a lot of friends. Not everyone who came into Ray’s was there for a haircut. Many times the guys were there to visit and talk about the latest news in town.
If Ray knew of someone who was sick or housebound, he would grab his scissors and clippers and make a house call to give them a haircut. Ray also was a licensed real estate agent, selling for Marv Beatty at Statewide Realty. Having four sons, Ray was involved with Little League and coached for nearly 20 years. He served on the credit union board as well as the school board for 10 years and was a longtime member of St. Paul Catholic Church.
The youngest of 10 children, Ray would tell stories of growing up on the farm. His family always had a garden surrounded by beautiful fruit trees. Growing up in his household, they spoke both Polish and English. Ray was proud of his Polish heritage. Ray’s father always flew the American Flag in their yard; Ray carried on that tradition, as the American Flag was always flown over his and Ruth’s yard.
When Ray’s kids were growing up, his enjoyment was hunting and fishing. His best fishing buddies were Paul, Gary, and Danny Price. Ray had fond memories of fishing with the Price boys and loved sharing stories about their adventures. Each year Ray and a group of hunting buddies would take a trip across the Straits to bear hunt. Joining in the great hunt were Ernie Kelly, Don Rogers, Mervin Rogers, Wayne McFall, Gene LaLonde, Gerald Gilbert, Tom Gilbert, Ray Preston, Hewitt Gall, Nute Chapman, Cliff Mowery, Chuck Hyde, Charlie Schaar and Craig Otis.
In 1976 Ray and Ruth built a small, rustic log cabin at Rainey Lake. Being the year of the bicentennial, the cabin was appropriately named “The Spirit of 76.” Very proud of their log cabin getaway, Ray and Ruth enjoyed having friends visit at the cabin, hosted potlucks, and played many games of Spitzer there. Throughout their high school years, Ray and Ruth’s boys, along with their friends, made the most use of the cabin. There were many happy memories made at “The Spirit of 76.”
A self-conservationist, Ray planted a stand of trees on Palmer Road with big sign on a ridge dedicating the planting to his mother, Barbara Szymoniak. He also raised and sold Christmas trees for many years. Always helping those in need, Ray was known to drop off Christmas trees in the yards of families having hardships who could not afford a tree. He didn’t want to see any family go without a Christmas tree. Always busy outside, planting and growing one thing or another, Ray grew fruit trees, berry patches and loved to garden.
Every spring, he and Ruth had a flower planting contest where each of them planted a flat of flowers separately and waited anxiously to see whose flowers grew the most beautifully. Ray always had some project he was working on or was helping one of his kids with their projects.
The day after Ray retired, the first day of August in 1993; he and Ruth packed up their truck, threw a mattress in the back for a place to sleep, and headed to Alaska to visit their son, Glen. Each fall Ray and Ruth enjoyed celebrating their anniversary with a trip to a different state. They loved the game of golf and decided to purchase a place in Florida to spend the winter months. They enjoyed their time in Florida, made many friends, and stayed busy going places and doing things together. Ray would always tell his kids he enjoyed Florida but always counted the days until he would be home again with his family.
Ray’s greatest love and joy was his family. He was most content and happy when his family was with him. He and Ruth loved to play Spitzer and taught their kids and grandkids the game so whenever there was a family gathering, Spitzer was on the agenda for the day. Ray was a sincere, humble, kind and caring man.
He enjoyed life’s simple pleasures. He and Ruth enjoyed sitting in their recliners, watching out the window as the birds came to the feeders their son Scot made for them. They enjoyed packing a picnic lunch, going for a drive, and stopping on a riverbank to have a picnic together. Inseparable, he and Ruth had a true love story for 68 years. Ray lost the love of his life, his wife of 68 years, just nine days prior to his death. His family believes he could not go on without her by his side. They are now together and holding hands once again.
Ray is survived by his sons, Bruce (Wendy), Glen (Erin) Raymond Jr. (Julie), and Scot (Liz); daughters, Connie (Jim) Gibson and Louise West (Phil Holland): 16 grandchildren, Aimee, Kim, Dan, Nathan, DJ, Matthew, Nick, Eric, Ryan, Raymond, Jason, Curtis, Cortney, Caycee, Brooke and Lexi; many great-grandchildren; as well as step-grandchildren and step-great-grandchildren. He also leaves his sister-in-law, Judy Shaloy and numerous nieces and nephews.
Preceding Ray in death were his wife, Ruth; son-in-law, Mark West; sisters, Irene Tredway, Cary Kowalski, Lucille Keesee, Agnes Huyck and Stella Wright; and brothers, Walter, Richard, Edward and Eugene.
Visitation will be held Tuesday, April 27, from 5 – 8 p.m. at the Chagnon Funeral Home followed by a funeral Mass at St. Paul Catholic Church at 11 a.m. Wednesday April 28. Ray’s final resting place will be in Onaway at Hillcrest Cemetery.