OC mourns the loss of Tom Ray
Pictured: Tom Ray and his wife Mariah. Tom died Sunday unexpectedly.
By Debbie Schaumber
For The Record
Tom Ray, 46, unexpectedly died Sunday, but not before leaving his mark on the hearts of those who came in contact with him over the years.
Ray was a Captain with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and was known for his dedication to his chosen profession, but more importantly he was a son, husband and father.
Ray who was a first generation cop in his family was raised a Christian and to help people. Being an officer gave him the opportunity to not only help people but to give back to his community while creating a safer place to raise his children.
Ray was a lifelong resident of Orange County and an Orangefield High School graduate. He attended Lamar University as well as the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Police Academy. During a previous interview, he said he was never the type of parent who hung out at bars but instead at the end of the day, he went home to his family. Vacations and time off was spent at Disney World or the beach. For Ray, being a father meant providing for his family. His goal was 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 what to look for in a husband, Ray said.
The relationship between Ray and his children was like a 1950s family sitcom. Ray’s home life was best compared to “Father Knows Best” where the family loves and supports each other. Like the TV show, each child had a special relationship with their father.
Ray’s job at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office as an investigator was demanding and stressful. He worked dangerous cases involving people and circumstances, but when he went home he put it all behind him as he flipped an imaginary switch from tough investigator to husband and father.
Ray first became a father when he married his first wife, Nichole. She had a three-month-old son, Tyler. 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 who is now a teenager.
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. However, she would not get the chance to graduate with her friends.
In April 2013, Blair was driving a 2006 Ford Mustang and 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.
During the days and years that followed, Ray picked up the pieces of his life and remained strong for his family. But, his faith and his strong support system of family of friends helped him along the way.
Blair’s motto in life was, “Never, never give up.” The family used it in their daily life.
In times of despair, Ray said he could hear Blair whispering in his ear,”Never, never give up!”
For Ray, his greatest accomplishment in life were his children.
Ray loved to fish and hunt. If he wasn’t in the woods hunting, then he was surely on the water fishing. His fishing partner was most often his mother, Connie. The pair went fishing as often as they could.
They could certainly catch some fish, Joey Jacobs said while reflecting on the life of his best friend and co-worker.
Ray often spent time with other members of his family such as his two brothers, Clint and Murray and his father Thomas Ray Sr. There was no shortage of love and respect in the Ray family.
Jacobs went hunting with Ray and they also went to a few Astros games together. To Jacobs’ children, Ray was like family.
When not with family or friends, he was doing a job he loved. Tom Ray, affectionately known as T Ray was a very dedicated professional. Some even jokingly called him by both his first and last name all the time.
According to Jacobs, there was another side to Ray which was a mischievous side. Ray was well known among his co-workers and friends for his photo-shopping skills. He would place the face of someone he knew and make funny pictures. It was all in good fun and put a smile on everyone’s face even if they were in the picture.
When it came time to be serious, he was all in and Ray had something special which is a “true calling.”
Becoming a police officer requires certain things as far as education and certification, but it actually takes more than that, Ray said during a previous interview. It actually takes “heart.”
Heart is defined by the dictionary as one’s commitment, dedication and loyalty to their cause. Ray knew as a boy he would someday become an officer.
“For the majority of officers, it is the true calling of a servant’s heart,” Ray said during a previous interview.
In January 1993 Ray began his law enforcement career as a patrol deputy with the OCSO Reserve Program. Two years later he took a for full time position as a jailer in the Corrections Division. While there he was promoted to corporal and was responsible for overseeing the shift as well as being the Field Training Officer.
In 1997, Ray was again promoted to deputy and transferred to the Patrol Division where he worked until 2001. His career took another turn when he again was promoted to sergeant in the Criminal Investigations Division. During his career he was assigned to the Narcotics Division and the Street Crimes Unit.
Ray was later assigned to the Gang Task Force and worked with state and federal agencies. He was recognized by the State District Courts as an expert in gang investigations. As an investigator, Ray experienced many facets of investigations and has been lead investigator on various cases, ranging from simple misdemeanor crimes to challenging capital murders. In 2009, Ray was again promoted to lieutenant overseeing the Criminal Investigations Division and in 2014 to captain.
Jacobs met Ray in 2004 when they were assigned to work together. One particular case which proved to be quite challenging for the pair was that of a woman who was shot and killed by her husband in Orangefield. His story did not match the evidence so the pair set out to disprove his statements. In the end, they were able to get a conviction, but it would have to wait. The man fled the state. However, with a team effort they located him and brought him back to Orange County where he was sentenced to time in prison. In the end, perseverance and justice prevailed.
At the sheriff’s office, Ray’s bold and tenacious personality made it possible for him to excel in everything he did. Ray served 10 years on the Orange County Area Law Enforcement SWAT Team and held a Master Peace Officer’s certification. Ray also had a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Instructors and Firearms Instructors Certifications. He was also responsible for teaching Patrol Rifle Tactics Programs and other related trainings. Rays also serves as the departments Glock and Colt AR15/M-16 Armorer.
Ray did not stop there. He served as the Orange County Sheriff’s Employees Association President from 2009-12 and remained a member of their political action committee. Ray continued to show support for all law enforcement and first responders and took the initiative when others would not. His dedication took him all the way to the state level where he was a proud past member of the Board of Directors for Region 9 with the Texas Municipal Police Officers Association which serves 32 counties in East Texas.
Visitation will be Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Robert A. Bob Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur. Funeral services will follow at 2 p.m. and are under the direction of Dorman Funeral Home, with Reverend J.W. Harrell, pastor of the Bridge City Pentecostal Church, and Murry Ray officiating. Rite of Committal and Interment will follow services at Autumn Oaks Memorial Park in Orange, where Tom will be laid to rest next to his daughter, Blair, and son, Tyler.
A memorial fund has been set up. Those wanting to donate can do so at Gulf Credit Union located at 4721 Highway 87 in Orange or at any other location. The account number to the Tom Ray Memorial Fund is 83591.