“Tieton From Hatton Road Looking Northeast”

Ray Klusmeier

When Ray was born September 26, 1939 his family lived in western Nebraska. They moved during his early years to Live Oaks, California where in 1952 he was to experience the death of his father; Ray was twelve years old. Ray feeling alone, grew up very independent and out spoken; sometimes seemingly striking back at his loss. Some of his classmates referred to him as the “James Dean” of his Highland class. It would be wrong to say Ray was a model youngster while at Highland, even though his nickname was “Reverend.” Perhaps Pink Robins showed his inexperience with the clergy whilst selecting Ray’s nickname. 

Ray had a number of close friends in high school and when he wasn’t working on the Rowland ranch or others; he would be off hunting or fishing and if you weren’t careful he might be off making mischief. He was caught in a malicious game of post office. Not the kind where he was stealing kisses from willing young ladies but the kind involving destroying mailboxes along the road. He was also part of the notorious “Turkey Gang” who was tracked down and apprehended for stealing and roasting turkeys stolen from farmers in the region. Years later, it would be said, many nice fathers developed from that gang of hoodlums or put another way “even Ray grew up, except…!” Except that Ray was inclined to stretch a story from time to time, to a point that the truth of the story was often to be found somewhere on the cutting room floor. 

He had decided while still in high school that when he graduated he would enlist in the United States Air Force. His ultimate goal was to become an air traffic controller. In later years, he would report at a class reunion that he had indeed spent four years in the Air Force where it was known that he had served a portion of his time in the Philippines. He would go on to say that, thereafter, he served an additional two years in the United States Marine Corps in Vietnam. The Marine Corps service could not be vouched for by friends or family, but almost certainly he did not serve in Vietnam according to family members. 

After his military service of four (or six years), he settled in Seattle with one of what would turn out to be, three wives. He joined the Fire Department and became very successful as first reaching the rank of Captain. Ultimately, at retirement after twenty years, he reached the rank of Battalion Chief for the Industrial south end of the City of Seattle responsible for such facilities as the old King Dome, Harbor Fire Boats and other major assets for the City. His headquarters, in fact, was within a block of the old King Dome site. He was involved in investigations of all major fires in his district and it was not uncommon to hear him being interviewed on news radio programs as one drove along city streets. Ray was well liked by his co-workers. Roger Ramsey, Assistant Chief in Ray’s battalion, was interviewed after Ray’s death and remembered him as “a physically strong courageous person, a person extremely well liked and a perfectionist.” 

Ray was reported to have been an expert “Trap or Skeet Shooter.” At the 25th Class Reunion he reported that, “Twice (he had been) a Washington State Trap Champion winning the bronze medal in (the) 1980 Olympic Continental Competition.” He was known to be a good shot with firearms.

Ray reported at that 25th Reunion in 1982 that he, “(Had) attained a B. A. in Business, and a M. A. at the University in Landscape Architect.” We interpret that to mean that he had attained a B. A. degree in Business and a M. A. degree in Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington. Perhaps, but at the 20th Reunion five years earlier in 1977 he had failed to mention his studies at the University of Washington. A check with the Assistant Registrar Office at the University of Washington brought this written report; “I am sorry, but we cannot find anyone by that name (Ray W. Klusmeier) in our records. Possibly it was another school in Washington.” 

He died of liver cancer at age 54 on December 5, 1993. His obituary never mentioned his third wife’s name, probably because their divorce was finalized the day of his death. Yes, perhaps it had been another Washington University that had awarded his college degrees, but it makes no difference to those of us who are his friend. Hopefully, we too, will have aspired to be more than we became before we leave this place.

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