Tom Ray Jr. is to some a model father, but most importantly he is a “dad” to his children.

“I love my kids and do all I can for them,” Ray said.

The relationship between Ray and his children is like a 1950s family sitcom. Ray’s home life can be compared to “Father Knows Best” where  the family loves and supports each other. Like the TV show, each child has a special relationship with their father and know at the end of the day, he will always be there for them —no matter what.

“I truly have that with my kids,” Ray said.

Ray’s job at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office as an investigator is demanding and stressful. He has worked dangerous cases involving people and circumstances, but when he goes home he puts it all behind him as he walks through the door. He is in a relaxed state because he is right where he wants to be. He flips an imaginary switch from tough investigator to husband and father.

‘I’ve always been able to separate home and my job,” Ray said.

Tom Ray and Blair

Tom Ray and Blair

Ray said he was never the type of parent who hung out at bars. Instead he worked and at the end of the day, went home to his children. Vacations and time off was spent at Disney World or the beach.

For Ray, being a father meant providing for his family. He also strived to be his son’s “first hero” and his daughter’s “first love.”

A son has to learn how to love and treat his wife and a father teaches his daughter in what to look for in a husband, Ray said.

Ray first became a father when he married his first wife, Nichole. She had a three-month-old son. Ray raised the boy like he was his own son. But, he suffered from medical issues and died in 1998 at the age of 7 years old. The couple had two more children, Justin and Blair.

The couple later divorced, but shared custody of the children. Even after the divorce, Ray made it a point to be a big part of their lives.

Tom later remarried to Mariah, who had a son named Alex.

Justin would grow into a young man and graduate from Port Neches-Groves High School in 2012. Blair was right behind him in high school.

Like many teens, Blair’s future was bright and limitless. Not only did she achieve, but excelled at everything set forth in her path. She was a junior at Port Neches-Groves High School where she enjoyed socializing with her friends, She also worked part-time at Market Basket as a cashier.

In her spare time, she loved riding horses and spending time with her family.

Blair was a poet and her poems were “deep” and filled with emotion. Her insight through the poetry revealed a much wiser and remarkable young woman beyond her years.

Her creative spirit also lead her into the world of photography. She was able to find the beauty in the simplest of things. Ray recalls a trip to Shangri La where she contorted her body in order to get a particular shot of the corner of a bench. He laughs when he talks about how she did this, as if still in awe of her and how she could take something so ordinary and make it incredibly special.

“She had a gift,” Ray said. “She was really awesome.”

However, a tragic event would change all their lives forever. Her family’s nightmare began on April 11. 2013 when Blair who was driving a 2006 Ford Mustang was traveling south on FM 1078 near Bancroft Road. The Mustang crossed the center line and struck a 2011 Mercedes traveling north on the same roadway. The 54-year-old woman in the Mercedes was transported in stable condition to a local hospital where she was treated and later released. Blair died at the scene.

Now, he says there is a void in his life left by Tyler and Blair. Ray silently picks up the pieces of what is left of his life and remains strong for his family. The raw emotions of losing a child is like none other especially on trigger days such as holidays or anniversaries. Fortunately, Ray has a strong support system of family and friends.

During the tough times, Blair’s motto in life was, “Never, never give up.” The family used it in their daily life. When Tyler was very ill, Blair would tell him her motto.

“He fought until the very end,” Ray said.

Now in times of despair, as Ray struggles to move forward in his life, he says he can hear Blair whispering in his ear,”Never, never give up!”

Ray said he also prays everyday for the strength to keep moving forward without forgetting of what is important in his life and to keep searching for another realm of “normal.”

As father’s everywhere are honored on father’s day, Ray will likely do what others have done for decades, smile for the camera, and most surely hug his children a little closer while he still can.

Pictured: Tom Ray, his daughter Blair and wife Mariah at his son, Justin’s, graduation from high school in 2012.