Ray’s First 95 years.

By | June 17, 2024

Ray Harris here. Welcome to my life, so far. I have spent 95 whirlwind years on this planet, about 90 of which I have been making my own decisions of what to do and what not to do. The first five years I listened to my parents. For the most recent 90 years, I consider myself totally responsible for my actions. Yes, I often had co-conspirators that participated with me, under my guidance. I don’t intend to dilute the blame. I am, however, willing to share the credit for the accomplishments – and there are many.

The following memories, all true and without embellishment, were often requested of me by others, also many were instigated by me and some just happened in my presence. Some are serious – others are hilarious. Many happened during my business career – others with my crazy family. Regardless of the source, I take the blame and some of the credit for everything that follows.

During my business career

Calhoun Square had agreed to host a weekend featuring Kemps Ice Cream. I led the huge Kemps Holstein cow across the Hennepin and Lake intersection and around the Uptown neighborhood. The man with the bag following the cow was not looking for the cow’s oats and barley!

A 4-alarm fire erupted in the building across the street from Calhoun Square. Since I control the weather, a fierce westerly wind blew the smoke away from Calhoun Square, toward Lake Calhoun. Otherwise, if the smoke had entered Calhoun Square – all of the merchandise of all of the tenants would have been ruined!

Restauranteur Phil Roberts wanted to open a restaurant on the corner of Lake and Hennepin – the prime location in all of Calhoun Square. Other restaurants also vied for the same location. I picked Robert’s Figlio’s because they were the only restaurant that agreed to place their entry door inside of Calhoun Square – the others insisted their entry door should be outside facing Lake Street.

Since Calhoun Square already had an Italian Deli as a tenant, Phil agreed that Figlio’s would be American Nouvelle. You be the Judge! Figlio’s opened and may well have been the best and most successful place to eat and drink and meet all the important people in Minneapolis. Figlio’s also paid a percentage rent for all sales exceeding an agreed upon amount. Both the landlord and tenant shared a lot of excess dollars. Over the years, Phil and I often renegotiated the percentage! “Up one eighth of one percent” usually resulted – a lot of money! I believe that Figlio’s was the “Cash Cow” that allowed Phil’s group (Parasole) to be so successful. Phil agreed that the closing of Figlio’s was one of his biggest mistakes.

Without a human resources VP, many great untrained people learned and created their job description – on the job! They included Myles Jacob, Barb Doncaster, Gene Tierney, Tedd Schuster, and Jackie Knight

Fortunately Police Chief Tony Bouza was in charge of all police duties at that time. His cooperation was essential to the success of Calhoun Square. He even allowed benches everywhere (“loiterers will sleep on them”) – they didn’t. Tony Bouza’s wife “anti-war” Erica Bouza opened a jewelry shop in Calhoun Square.

We were required to provide 250 parking spaces for the construction of Calhoun Square. Obviously that was insufficient! The City Council member (Sally Howard) suggested that we apply for a UDAG Grant (Urban Development Action Grant) – which we did. When the grant was delayed (probably partisan bickering). A trip to Washington D.C. was necessary to unclog the delay – the three musketeers hopped on a plane (Mayor Don Fraser – a Democrat Council member, Sally Howard – a Republican, and Ray). We were victorious!

Calhoun Square Management did not allow employee and monthly parking in The 550 car ramp just short term – and cheap – and almost always full. So successful that during every rush hour on 31st St. We had to hire off-duty police to help the autos exit the ramp. Parking turnover made the Calhoun Square parking ramp the model for success. Periodically, we raised the price for parking – a nickel – big money during the holiday season when each space parked 10 autos per day. 550×10=5500. We even reduced the width of each space (separately, by re-painting) and gained 6 more spaces. So successful that there was zero crime – too busy!

When the city granted the approval to build Calhoun Square, every NIMBY (NOT IN MY BACKYARD) in Minneapolis emerged. “Calhoun Square will cause Hi rise buildings to fill the neighborhood,” or “Calhoun Square will be such a failure that the entire area will require urban removal.” Even a neighbor with a beautiful Irish Setter dog repeatedly said at public meetings, “If Calhoun Square is built, the vacant land will disappear and my dog will have no place to take a dump.” The opponents plastered signs on storefronts and on billboards all over the city. The sign read “DUMP RAY HARRIS. DUMP SALLY HOWARD. DUMP UPDALE.” (Updale was the opponents name for Calhoun Square).

It took 5 years to plan and build Calhoun Square. In spite of the opponents and experts who were convinced that Calhoun Square would never be built, it was and is so successful that it caused the rejuvenation of Southwest Minneapolis.

“Famous” Dave was absolutely convinced that he was the world’s best salesman – Not so! Ray Harris was trained selling refrigerators to eskimos.” Dave was planning to put the first and only large Famous Dave’s Restaurant in the Rainbow building across the street from Calhoun Square.

When we finished out-doing each other, Dave agreed to lease space in Calhoun Square for his Famous Dave’s barbecue. I won! Dave not only signed a lease in Calhoun Square, but practically tore Calhoun Square apart and down. He wanted to (and did) make his restaurant resemble an old neighborhood in Chicago – complete with an “EL” car that traveled above the restaurant and announced its arrival – loudly and often. Regular music events occurred every night – Famous Dave’s competed with Figlio’s daily!

After 5 years preparing to build Calhoun Square and the only remaining obstacle was signing the myriad – hundreds of documents – A federal policy pertaining to Calhoun Square expired at midnight, December 31, 1982. The “Closing” was scheduled for December 28. A huge snowstorm descended on Minneapolis on that day, making it impossible for the dozens of people to travel to the downtown Minneapolis office for the signing of the documents. There being no other alternative and facing a deadline that held the fate of Calhoun Square happening, we rescheduled the closing to Dec. 30 – the last possible date. Another snowstorm! Another postponement was not an option. Traffic was at a standstill. The closing had to happen! Some of the participants trudged through the snow – others skied – one drove a snowmobile! The closing began at noon Dec. 30, 1982, and continued all night. Hundreds of documents were completed! The “closing” was wrapped up and finished at 10:00am on Dec. 31, 1982. Calhoun Square could be built!

The construction of Calhoun Square included the retention and rejuvenation of three buildings – one a three-story wood frame construction. The Calhoun Square corporate office was on the third floor of the wood building. One day we were having a meeting to discuss future tenants who wanted to be in Calhoun Square. A fitness center/gym was a prospective tenant. “We’re almost fully leased,” one person stated. I replied “there is space in the basement of this building, but the ceiling is too low for a fitness/gym tenant.” Let’s lower the floor – let’s go down and look at the space! Upon inspection we were shocked to see that ALL of the vertical wood columns were rotted and separated from the floor. This building is going to collapse – fall down – and soon! Kraus-Anderson, our contractor, immediately started to replace the rotted columns with steel ones! End result, no fitness/gym but also no building collapse!

In 1976, the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis School Board (owner of the land of the demolished Calhoun School) advertised for prospective developers of the site – with one requirement – must be a use of property taxes. Five responses arrived. The merchants wanted a free parking lot (no taxes). The community wanted a Community Center (no taxes). The nearby Greek Church wanted a Greek retirement home. A fourth prospect wanted to build a small, single level retail center on the old school site. A commercial center (Calhoun Square was the fifth prospect). Calhoun Square was selected.


I was asked to serve on the Board of Trustees shortly after the YWCA building on the Nicollet was constructed and in operation serving its clientele. The new building began to have structure problems; the roof cracked in several places and some of the vertical columns showed significant displacement. The YWCA staff called in several consultants to assess the problem. The consultants concluded repairs were needed, but not to worry. At that point the architect of the building died. Without the architect and the consultants “don’t worry about the problem“ attitude, everyone relaxed except me. I felt that the new building could have major structure problems that would endanger the hundreds of daily patrons as well as the YWCA staff, and I informed the staff of my concerns. “But the consultants were not concerned,” they said. At that point I responded “you cannot endanger all of the building’s inhabitants, I will go public with my concerns unless you agree to close the building until repairs are completed.” My threat was successful and the program and building were shut down. I was right, the building would have suffered major damage. Repairs were performed and the building reopened and programs resumed many months later. Thankfully no one was injured.

When the Douglas school in the Lowry Hill neighborhood was closed and torn down, the nearby homeowners and the Lowry Hill organization wanted to fill the site with market rate, owner-occupied housing. They called me to assist them. We sought government financing. We were offered financing for a high-rise building, housing only low-income tenants. “The neighborhood only justifies this kind of building and occupants.” The neighbors and I were not satisfied. – believing that the area justified a much better outcome. I contacted a couple of local bankers and received a commitment for each prospective homeowner to commit to a mortgage on their home. Victory! In an informal joint venture we built 25 market rate townhomes for owner occupants. These homes were the first attached townhomes built in Minneapolis. Now, in 2024 almost 50 years later, the homes are fully occupied and improved and in a stable neighborhood.

Rabbi Zimmerman of Temple Israel asked me to advise her on the adjacent four real estate properties owned by Temple Israel. Some Temple members want to sell all of the property, others want a huge on-site parking lot, others want only upscale housing for Jewish members. “Help me!”

I gathered 2 colleagues to help me. We produced a 100-year plan for all of the properties including low and hi-rise homes and underground parking, hi-rise office buildings with some commercial space for Temple and community services. Temple Israel approved the plan and made it a part of their long term strategic plan.

The construction of the off-leash dog park (in Loring Park) was complete and the dogs were ready to play. As an amenity for the dog park I sponsored, a chainsaw artist who carved a magnificent large wood sculpture of seven dogs sitting on top of each other. Dogs resembling “my dog and other dogs playing nearby”. With the help of a senior architect of the esteemed HDA Group, we added a large steel tank that would serve as pedestal to hold the large sculpture. We expected that the tank would be filled with water to quench the thirst of the playing dogs. The dogs would drink from the trough surrounding the tank, like horses drinking water. We filled the tank and the water appeared. However, we should have realized that dogs are quite different from horses! Instead of drinking from the trough, the dogs proceeded to urinate in it and swim in it. Total failure!

On Lake St., the empty 200,000 square foot Sears building and the adjacent 19 acres were for sale. A Chicago developer wanted to demolish the building and build a single-level center for small retail shops. Locally everyone objected. I led a local group that hoped to save the historic building and redevelop the entire property with commercial, office, and possibly, residential uses. We negotiated and signed a legally binding agreement to purchase the entire property. We began planning the entire project. Shortly, Sears decided to reneg and retract their agreement to sell. We (David) decided to take Sears (Goliath) to court – to require Sears (Goliath) to honor their obligations – sell the property to our local group. The judge ruled that Sears must sell and gave the local group a very short time to pay fully and complete the purchase. With the help of the Pohlad group, we were barely able to pay within the deadline established by the judge. David won out over Goliath! Today, the property is fully developed – with offices, the corporate headquarters of Allina Health system, rental residential and the exciting entrepreneurial commercial Midtown Exchange.

I was retained to buy and assemble about 50 smaller properties in order to provide a site for a large development – to cover several blocks and the vacated streets. Many fascinating stories are remembered from the purchase of the properties – here are only four

  • One of the properties was owned by a Madam – Hallie Cowan – “you’re not just buying real estate, you’re also buying a business” – “and I want to be paid in cash!” And she was. About 20 years later, I received a call from Hallie Cowan “I live in a duplex near 33rd and Fremont and I am moving to a retirement home”. You were so nice to me 20 years ago that I will offer to sell my home to you on Fremont.” I bought it, and my daughter Rachel and son Bill lived in it for some time.
  • A divorced couple lived in a duplex – and jointly owned two large dogs. The dogs were NEVER allowed to go outside. We bought the duplex and demolished it.
  • One of the smaller and older property was owned by a landlord named Arne Carlson – a future governor.
  • The purchase of one of the properties required the signature of all of 12 sellers – 11 signatures later, the 12th was found in Iowa – dead.

The Dunwoody/Bennett property overlooking downtown Minneapolis, the Guthrie Theater, and the Walker Arts Center was one of the most desirable building sites in Minneapolis. The owner – a developer, wanted to build a hi-rise tower – in the middle of single family homes in the Lowry Hill neighborhood. The entire community and the city staff and even the mayor objected. The argument continued for years. The developer even threatened to build “low income inexpensive housing.” The impasse continued. Finally I met with the owner – and negotiated a purchase of the property. Today the site is filled with large, upscale townhomes! And everyone is pleased with the results.

It became a tradition that when my attorney, John Thiel, and I finished a project or a negotiation – we would go to have lunch – at White Castle. Several sliders each. One day we were eating yummy, all-beef sliders – dressed in suits and ties. At the adjacent and surrounding tables were numerous usual White Castle customers – unkempt, scraggly hair – some with teeth – some without – yelling and arguing about some of the intricacies of the Zodiac.


Our family’s first home was a smallish 3 bedroom home at 5004 Wentworth avenue. As our family expanded – with little ones seemingly everywhere, we were actively looking to buy a larger home – in a nearby South Minneapolis neighborhood. Our realtor, Marty Weegman, called “there’s a wonderful five-bedroom home on Fremont Ave. going to be listed and sold by our company (David Bell Investment Co.) it is not listed yet but you must see it – now!” We looked and fell in love with the perfect house. We submitted a full price offer at the price the current seller was going to list the home for sale.

At the same time another realtor showed the home and a full price offer was submitted by another prospective buyer. What to do? Two full price offers for a home with a still unsigned listing agreement! Both prospective buyers urged the seller to accept their offer. Anger erupted. Finally in an effort to resolve the heated argument the president of the real estate company said “We’ll all meet and, if necessary, auction the home to the highest buyer!” Before the meeting my Realtor prepared a higher price offer and prepared to submit it. I retained the original full price offer. The meeting began – the other buyer ranted and raved that he should be selected as the buyer. The president of the real estate company listened patiently. My Realtors perspiring with anxiety and under the effects of too much alcohol – expected me to present the higher offer. All right, put your offers on the table. The other buyer was so incensed that he walked out without submitting a new offer. I submitted my original offer which was accepted. The sale was consummated and the Ray Harris family owned their ideal home!

On a cold snowy night in January 1973, the Ray Harris family of 6 (+ 1 friend of my daughter’s) were all asleep. I woke up coughing from smoke. The house was on fire. The instant-on television in the living room had sparked – and started to burn -the carpet and curtains were soon ablaze. The fire spread quickly throughout the first floor and soon reached the stairs, then we all awakened. I called in the fire department and sirens of approaching fire engines filled the air. We were all trapped upstairs – until ladders were set up to rescue the whole family.

After assisting everyone onto the ladders, I realized the fire had engulfed the entire 2nd floor. My only escape path was through a tiny bathroom window onto the roof of the porch – I have no idea how I could squeeze through that window. But I did. Everyone was safe. I counted people – only six! Who is missing? My daughter’s friend had been placed in one of the fire engines! All safe and sound in the neighbors house. Next door, the fire was finally contained but the Ray Harris family had NOTHING! The fire and smoke had ruined everything – No toothbrushes, no clothes, no shoes – nothing. Were we being tested? Why? We were driven to my father’s house nearby where we stayed until we could rent two furnished apartments in the high rise Summit House apartments. From NOTHING, we all rebuilt our lives!

My family owned two adorable Boston terriers. At night they liked to sleep with us and we all enjoyed sleeping with one of the dogs. The problem was how to figure out which dog would sleep in each person’s bed each night. 5 different beds x 7 nights of the week x 2 dogs. We needed Albert Einstein to devise the needed formula. We did solve the sleeping dogs challenge but the solution was so complicated that I can’t remember it!

One day while we still lived on Wentworth Ave., we added to our menagerie by bringing home a cute, male, wire-haired terrier puppy. At that age he looked like a little rag doll. We named him Punkett, Earl of Wentworth, with the nickname of Punky. As he grew, we decided to have him trained. We should have been forewarned when the dog trainer raised the price and said male, wire-haired terriers are almost impossible to train. Punky would not be trained! We trained him to go outside, which he happily did, and then he would come inside and urinate and poop!

The final straw was on our long deck at our lake cabin. He started running at full speed, towards the end of the dock – and off the end – into oblivion! We soon gave Punky away to a friend with more patience.

I was walking my friendly Boston Terrier, Gusto, when my friend, Federal judge David Doty approached us. Prior to greeting us, Judge Doty bent over towards Gusto. The dog felt threatened and attacked, and took a sizable chunk out of the judge’s hand. “I was just going to pet him, ” the judge hastily remarked. After many years of close friendship Judge Doty often reminds me of my vicious dog and that a lawsuit should have followed.

In my early years I was climbing a tree – a branch broke and I fell out of the tree – hitting the ground – and broke my arm. About 60 years later, my grandson, Chet was climbing a tree at our lake cabin – fell out of the tree and broke his arm!

Our house on Fremont was not called a zoo – but it might as well have been. We had two dogs, a cat, a monkey, a bat, several guinea pigs and a tarantula, AND four human rascals.

The Fremont house had a large vacant lot on the south side on which baseballs and hockey pucks flew in all directions, indiscriminately. So much so that we installed sheets of clear plexiglass over the windows – to prevent broken glass everywhere – even inside the house.

We often flooded the yard for winter skating and hockey. Trial and error, we learned that hot water made the smoothest ice. Soon, I received a call from the City of Minneapolis water department -questioning the use of so much water (hot water) and were our water pipes leaking?

Often, especially at our lake cabin, I played many games with my children and grandchildren – crazy eights, Gin Rummy, Fantan, and cribbage! During our cribbage games I, intentionally and clearly, CHEATED. I called it “creative mathematics” – my opponents usually detected the mischief – great fun was had by all!

RAY – Guilty as Charged

My roommate at Stanford University, Clayton Barnett, was engaged to marry Betty Lynn. The couple invited me and our other roommate to the wedding, which was planned for the grand Muehlebach Hotel in Kansas City. The wedding was to be the social event of the year in Kansas City – a very formal event for several hundred family and friends. Two of us, Clayton’s roommates at Stanford, were looking for mischief.

We found out that the married couple were going to spend their first night together in the bridal suite of the hotel. There was a decorative pond in front of the hotel – with two ducks gliding around the pool. After some anxious moments we were able to catch the ducks and proceeded to place them face down in two paper bags. Then still dressed in our tuxedos, we climbed the fire escape until we reached the bridal suite of the hotel. We opened the window and released the two quacking ducks into the living room of the bridal suite. We then retreated down the fire escape – in a hurry. The next morning, I believe, everyone in Kansas City knew about the quacking ducks. No one, however, knew what happened to the two ducks.

Every year on my birthday the family (my children and grandchildren) and friends would gather. Before the gifts were opened and before any frivolity and food was consumed – an annual family tradition took place. The entire group would form a line and spread their legs. Then I would get down on my knees (when I still could get up) and crawl through everyone’s legs and receive birthday spanks from each person – the spanking machine!

During the spring while I attended Stanford many students considered it to be a tradition to spend many hours and days at the beach in Santa Cruz. It was a simple 30-mile/minute commute to Stanford. We would soak up the sun and sand and Pacific ocean – an early version of remote learning. While at the beach at Santa Cruz, we played a game – spinning a metal pie tin back and forth. The pie tin was stamped with the name Frisbee Pie Tin Co. The frisbee craze followed.

As a teenager I had mastered riding a 2-wheel bicycle. One day, I called my mother to come outside and observe my bicycle excellence – my tricks. While she was watching – I came speeding towards her – raised myself until I was standing on the seat of the bicycle – “look mom, no hands!” and then I promptly crashed into the outside garage brick wall. Blood everywhere!

My son Dan was bringing his bride-to-be to Minneapolis to meet the family. In anticipation of this meeting, I rented 5 life-like gorilla suits. With bananas in hand, we 5 gorillas showed up at the airport (this was prior to the present security precautions). Would you believe, Dan’s bride-to-be still married him!

When my son Dan and daughter Rachel were toddlers – they enjoyed playing an endless game which I named “fetch the ball, dad, so I can throw it again!” Finally I invented a new game – I positioned the toddlers at the top of the stairs – I was at the bottom of the stairs. I would throw the ball up to them – they would then drop the ball down the stairs – the game of “ball boop” became a thrilling activity for them while I just sat and threw the ball back to them endlessly!

In the 1960s I bought a hat – a green hat – originally, I think that I bought the hat in order to protect my precancerous head from too much exposure to the sun. I wore the hat whenever I was outside. The hat was, and is, undeniably ugly. Gradually my family expressed their strong distaste for this hat. In response I wore the hat more and more, at meals, at the game table, in the car! I taunted everyone with my ugly green hat. When the entire family was going to travel to Hawaii for a vacation – I was given an ultimatum “no green hat in Hawaii.” My response was to recruit my wonderful assistant Barbara Doncaster. Barbara wrapped and mailed the hat so that I would receive it when I landed in Hawaii. Now in 2024 – almost 60 years later, the green hat still exists – uglier than ever. My daughter-in-law, Julie, created an entire green ensemble to diffuse attention from the hat – it just enhanced the hat. The saga continues.

My son Dan lived in Chicago and was a Chicago Cubs fan. I live in Minneapolis and the Minnesota Twins are my team. Dan and I enjoyed betting on the Cubs versus the Twins. However, the Cubs and Twins are in different leagues and do not compete against each other – so Dan and I had to improvise. One year we bet whether the Twins would have a better winning percentage than the Cubs at the end of the season. If Dan lost, he agreed to wear a Twins uniform and Twins paraphernalia for one whole week – at business meetings, everywhere. Likewise, if I lost I, agreed to wear a Cubs uniform. At the end of the season, the Twins had a better win percentage than the Cubs. I won the bet! Dan wore a Twins uniform for an entire week – everywhere he went!

While attending Stanford University I was on the Stanford wrestling team. In addition to scheduling matches with other Pacific Conference schools, we scheduled matches with non-conference teams – A match was set up for our team to wrestle the inmates at San Quentin prison. We beat them. Afterwards, we received a tour of the prison and I was allowed to sit in the electric chair! I don’t think they turned it on!

At our Lake Manuela lake cabin, Farmer Gomer owned the farm across the road. Every time we were at the cabin, I would take all of my kids and their guests up the dirt road to see the cows being milked. One time, I alerted my wife to watch us as the crowd of little ones walked up the dirt road to the Gomer Farm. We all held each other’s hands. There was an electrified fence alongside the road. I touched it and the entire group – jumped with surprise -most laughed, a few cried for a minute. All received an electrical lesson!

In 1945, World War II, My father was in Ecuador and Peru on government business. I played on the University High School football team. Final game of the year and I was allowed to take the family car for the first time. My mother was a spectator at the game and saw me break my ankle. She saw me hauled off the field then I disappeared! Where did I go? Hospitals were called – nothing! Hours passed without finding me! Finally I was found. I had driven the family car to the senior class party! What else did a high school senior, football player do after the final game of the year. The party was all important!

I was invited to the going away party of a recently married couple, Harold Zatz and his new bride Betty, formerly Betty Silverman – a very close friend of mine – in fact we regularly pranked each other with practical jokes – often slightly raunchy. The groom was a fine young man completely without a sense of humor. The party was going to be the same without a lot of fun – bon voyage a la boring. Since the couple were going to spend some of their honeymoon hiking and being very practical – I purchased a new toilet seat and attached a leather handle to the seat – voila! A unique traveling toilet seat.

It was impossible to disguise the present by wrapping it. After dinner we all sat around a table while presents were to be opened. Next to me sat the newlywed couple’s Rabbi – whom I had never met – I don’t think that he had smiled the entire evening. My turn came to pass my present to be opened – I was somewhat embarrassed – passing my toilet seat to the Rabbi, he immediately took the present – and roared in laughter – and said something in Hebrew – perhaps a toilet seat prayer. The somber evening turned into an evening of joy!

In addition to all of my other attributes, I control the weather! I even have a notepad that says “dial 1-900-weather” with my name and phone number beside it. Over the years my weather successes have been touted near and far. For example, all of my years at Calhoun Square I was in charge of good weather at the Uptown Art Fair – with astonishing results. And my daughter Sarah was married on December 29th – to spring-like weather. My favorite weather story, in February, the night before my son Dan was to marry his bride-to-be, from Chicago, we put on a big party – mostly for the bride’s family. At the party I bragged “Dan, I hope you appreciate the perfect weather that I have provided.” Dan responded “You arrogant ass, we wanted to go skiing.” At which point I said ” I’ll see what I can do!” The next morning came with a heavy snowstorm – almost a blizzard!

My brother John lived in the venerable village of North Oaks where nothing unusual or unplanned ever happens. Perhaps John thought he would never be a victim of my shenanigans. Wrong. When John and his wife Mollie departed for an extended vacation, they were probably confident that their property was safe and secure – wrong again! I filled an empty garbage can with junk – trash from my basement, or just worthless junk, then I drove the full can to John’s house in North Oaks. Next I covered the can and attached it by a sturdy and hefty chain to John’s outside front door – so that John and Mollie could not enter their home when they returned from their trip! I finally relented and much later provided the key to the lock!

Last year I received a call from Albuquerque, NM – from the daughter of Alan “Buddy.” Anyway, Buddy was my closest friend almost 90 years ago – and I had not seen or heard from Buddy all of that time. I knew Buddy and his mother and father before any of his family was born. We had a delightful reunion when Buddy and family returned to Minneapolis for a visit.

When I was 9 or 10 years old, I had large group of friends. One of them looked like a beaver – so we cruelly called him “Beaver” Adams. Fast forward 75 years, I was planning to write a book; I needed to find someone to help me and a company that could produce the book. My daughter Sarah suggested an acquaintance – Susan Adams Lloyd. Susan suggested her father who was a book publisher. I wrote and published my book Welcome to Wynott – the name of the publisher was Beaver’s Pond Press – owned by Milton “Beaver” Adams.

For many years I worked in downtown Minneapolis, I always went to the same barber- named Don- I never knew his last name. Now that I am living in the Kenwood retirement community – a woman, Chris, comes in to provide hair services to the residents. Chris cut the few hairs that I have! One day she was talking about her dad Don, who was a barber in downtown Minneapolis. The same Don that I had known for so many years! A coincidence? And what are the odds that Chris would come to the Kenwood!

It was a day in late October 2022 when my daughter Sarah brought me to the emergency room at the hospital. I had a body temperature of only 92°. I was not doing well – to put it mildly my primary doctor put me in hospice (the final stage of care that almost always proceeds death) and told my daughter that I would likely pass away within a couple of weeks. So, upon hearing the prediction I decided to enjoy my final days. I quit taking pills – and began eating forbidden salt and forbidden sugar, everything and anything that I desired.

I tolerated hospice care. Actually, I graduated from hospice. There are some people who think I was kicked out of hospice because I didn’t conform! Now, 18 months later, I feel fine, eat well, sleep well, and befuddle my doctor who just laughs trying to figure me out.

When I was put into hospice, my daughter – my legal trustee, properly began looking at my will. I had suggested giving some funds for something in a public space in Minneapolis. “What does that mean?” she said. After much discussion I decided and wrote a manifesto about WATER and how it is disappearing, a worldwide problem. Minnesota (being the state that has access to a lot of water) can be the benefactor. So we have started of movement about water – all due to my being ill and placed in hospice

In addition to defying the odds and living longer than predicted, I have had and beaten cancer three times. One other medical rarity. I had a meeting scheduled that was absolutely necessary and could not be postponed. Suddenly I had strangulated hernia which required surgery. The meeting could not happen unless the surgery was performed on a weekend. “Let’s do it,” I said strongly and loudly. Surgery was scheduled for the weekend. Being the weekend, hospital staff was limited. Staff were not accessible to push me to the operating room! “I’ll walk there.” And I did – the surgery was performed and I was at the meeting.

My mother was celebrating her 75th birthday. On her birthday cake i placed candle that would continually relight, and would not extinguish. Mother blew and blew – and her false teeth fell out on the table. She may have been embarrassed. We all laughed loudly!

My mantra at every family gathering was “everything that is edible is improved/enhanced by either ketchup or chocolate sauce!” We had many discussions questioning that statement.

One very snowy day while we lived on Wentworth Ave., I was shoveling snow. The house included an upper floor, outdoor deck which also needed shoveling. After I finished shoveling the deck, I noticed a huge pile of snow down at ground level. I then jumped from the upper level into the snow pile at ground level. My wife, looking out the window as I flew by, was aghast, and almost had a heart attack!

Every Valentine’s day I would dress up and go to the White Castle special Valentine’s party (reservations only) – with music, red tablecloths, waitpersons and a special White Castle menu. I always took a lady friend with me – to experience the occasion. The only problem was that, without fail, the ladies would not attend a second White Castle party – with me! Was the problem me or White Castle?

Too many stories to continue. Stay tuned for more!

5 thoughts on “Ray’s First 95 years.

  1. Brenda Christian

    Thanks for sharing your stories Ray.

  2. Nancy Johnson

    loved the stories! Way to go Ray—you can’t make this stuff up. I am glad you got it documented for posterity.

  3. Sarah Harris

    To think these stories only scratch the surface of how crazy you’ve been all these years! Fun to be on this wild ride with you!

  4. Jackie Knight

    It was an honor to work for you; you were both brilliant to watch, and a patient teacher to learn from – those traits do not always go hand in hand. I’m so thankful for what you created, and the space you created for so many of us to grow.

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