Ray Sutley, Yes, He Really Was That Great Of A Guy
I can guarantee you that every single person in this building, and every single person who worked with Ray, was friends with Ray and loved Ray, has already, or they will at some point, be reduced to a blubbering mess remembering their friend Ray Sutley. Yes, he really was that great of guy.
So, here we go. I asked Justine Sutley, Ray's wife, about writing this because there are so many things to say, and I just want to do a good job. She said absolutely do it; anything to celebrate Ray!
Amen Sister! Amen! She and their daughter, Eden Sutley, had his heart 24/7, but they were kind enough to share him with us Monday through Friday, and I can guaran-damn-tee-you, we are all better because we knew and loved Ray Sutley. Justine, Eden, all his other family and anyone else reading this, for that matter, forgive me if I get anything wrong.
Some of the stories I won't share because they are totally funny, but they're are things that just go on in a building where someone has worked for twenty-five plus years, that will stay among co-workers and friends. Even the stuff I know about from his prior radio days with other stations (Thank you Debbie Ray and Dave), I won't go into. The man was a hoot and a half! And he had a huge belly laugh. Don't worry, Justine knows all the stories because she was the love of his life and his trusted confidant.
You know, it's a tale of two Rays. The Ray before Justine and Eden, and the Ray after. Both Rays were brilliant, kind, sweet, loving, forceful and gifted, it's just....these two ladies brought out in public all those great things about Ray that were always there, just not very often revealed.
The knight had found his queen and princess, and oh how the whole kingdom rejoiced.
Let me tell you about the Ray Sutley I knew before he met Justine. You remember the fairy tale, "Beauty and the Beast"? Well, I first met the Beast. Holy Lord, that man was intimidating. (insert laughter here) You know the Beast is all of these wonderful things, but it takes his beautiful Belle to bring them out.
Ray Sutley stalked the halls of KPEL 107.7 FM/1420 AM. He was a heck of a professional, but he was a surly bastard. Okay, bastard is too harsh of a word. He was a really great guy, but Ray ran a tight ship, and if you did something wrong, the Beast came roaring out! (Trust me Justine and Eden are laughing). I started as a part-timer at KPEL after doing an internship in news, and Ray was the Program Director.
He was the perfect juxtaposition of mad dog and pussy cat, but it was only because he wanted things to be done right. He also had a narly sinus condition that made breathing a real chore for him, and I can only imagine about the snoring that must have gone on when that man laid his head on a pillow at night. I'm guessing he must have had the worst case of sleep apnea anyone knew of in 1993 (or thereabouts). No wonder he was hot-tempered in those days, the dude probably hadn't had a good night's sleep since '75!
He used to do sports, and I just tried to stay out of his way. I remember the first time I did an afternoon news cast at KPEL. In those days, you didn't have to press the buttons. You wrote and produced, then delivered the news. Ray ran the buttons and hosted the show. Ray left the studio to call the dispatchers at the police station to get the traffic report, and I RAN OUT OF NEWS before he came back. So, like the dumb newbie that I was, I sat there, too stunned to speak, trying to think of what to say. He ran back into the studio, hit the cart-machine(the 8-track machine) to play a commercial, then picked up another cart and threw it across the room! (No it didn't hit me.) I'm relatively sure he wasn't aiming for me. If I tell you all of the times that Ray, Justine and I howled with laughter at that memory, we'd be talking for a long time. (David Austin, didn't this also happen to you?)
Ray Sutley was a gentleman too. I remember one time when a couple of people back then were giving me hell, constantly, and he told me, "Ignore those boys, and I mean boys; men wouldn't do that". See, that's Ray Sutley.
So, there was that Ray, and then the Ray that would come into the studio and offer to get us lunch because he knew we were broke. See, me, David Austin, Byron Henderson, Amy Valentino, Tin Phan, Chad Carvell, David D'Aquin, Dominick Cross, Scott Domingue and so many more were like Ray's kids. He would jump all over us if we messed up, but if anyone else within the building tried to get cross-ways with us, Ray was the first one defending us.
He really just wanted the best for us even if he had to growl at us to get us to do something the right way. Without Ray and Mike Grimsley, I wouldn't have this great career.
All of that, or at least, most of that changed when Ray met Justine. She was the Public Relations person for USL. I won't go into all the details about the funny thing that led to her and he meeting for the first time, but I will tell you that spell-check identified the word as properly spelled, but it WAS NOT THE WORD THAT JUSTINE WAS WANTING TO USE. Needless to say, the two met, and that's when the world started changing.
Did I mention it was football season? It was. At that time, like now, we had a spot for tailgating, and that's when the sparks really flew. After one of the games, I was leaving, and I walked back by the tailgating tent where I noticed Justine was walking up to Ray. I have no idea what they said to one another, all I remember is the look on her face and his........it was love!
Fast forward to the part where the two love-birds get hitched in '94. This is a beautiful fairy tale. They matched each other in wits, heart and their love for a little girl.
She was five-years-old when they married, and she was (and still is) a pistol. Justine reminded me today about the story of how Eden was so defiant to Ray. I mean, hey Justine belonged to her! It was adorable because as Justine reminded me, Eden was my little hero! She could stand up to him and she could get away with it! Ray Sutley fell in love with two ladies, the Queen, Justine and his little girl, Eden.
The love between this trio was palpable. Was it always perfect, no because life isn't perfect. But, it was beautiful. He and Justine handled all of the successes throughout their lives, and they beat Ray's illness again and again. Along the way, Eden grew into this wonderful woman who knew that she was the apple of her dad's eye. One of the most fun times Ray shared with us was when he and Justine had bought a car for Eden. It was like every other time he talked about this child, he was blissful.
I remember one of the stories he told me from early on when he and Justine were sitting down to watch a movie, "Men in Tights", and how amazed they were at Eden knowing exactly when to laugh. This kid was so smart. She got the nuances of everything.
Watching Ray with his beautiful wife and child, you could see a man whose life was full. He was changed by them, and because of these ladies, everyone was able to share in their happiness.
Everyone in this building was Ray Sutley's friend. Everyone had a special relationship with him. He was that kind of person. He would growl at you sometimes for interrupting him, but he was the man in the building who always listened to you when you needed to pour out your heart. He would only offer advice if you asked ask him for it because he knew what you needed was for someone to care. And he did; for all of us.
Years ago, I happened to be working with a part-timer who had a medical condition. Ray didn't know anything about the person's disability, and when something happened, he just dealt with it. He also reassured that person that nothing medical would ever jeopardize their job. He was a just a gentle, caring person.
Whether he was doing sports, anchoring a show, working the UL games or doing production, he was a smart, kind person. He loved classic rock, and he even worked at KROCK, when we had that station years ago. When he thought no one was looking, he would jam out to classic rock.
We aren't going to hear, "Hey guy" or "Get out" anymore. We won't hear his laughter that was so rich, but we do have memories. We've got the Friday nights when KROCK did remotes at Hooters, yes that Hooters, with $1 draft beer and 25 cent wings. Those were some fun times. We also have countless station parties and gatherings to reminisce on all the good stuff.
Ray Sutley was honored by the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters with the Distinguished Service Award for 2011. There are many other projects that Ray gave his time and talents to, but he would never want public recognition; that just wasn't his style.
He was just a boy from Beeville, Texas, but he became one of us. He's our family, and he will be sorely missed. He leaves behind Justine, Eden, his parents, his brother Chris, a huge network of friends and his radio family.
He was a mentor to us, a friend and a fine and good soul. He was a warrior for his life, and he leaves behind so many people who are better because they were privileged enough to know Ray Sutley. May you rest in peace Ray.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking, if you can, to donate money to help them cover funeral and medical expenses. Thank you in advance if you are able to contribute.
Here's The Man We Saw Each Day