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Life story
June 11, 1926

Though you may not know the man, he was an amazing person to know.

Raymond  Edward  “Ray “ Thomas  was born on  June 11, 1926, on a farm in West Central Texas in the community of  DeLeon. His parents were John Calvin Thomas and Mamie Elizabeth Wolfenbarger Thomas.  His dad raised peanuts as a sharecropper.

DeLeon Texas


When Ray was one-year old, the family moved to a farm owned by the Higginbotham Brothers, owners of hardware/dry goods stores in the small towns of Central Texas.  They lived in a  three-room house that had no electricity or running water.  A wood-burning stove in the living room provided heat and kerosene  lamps provided light.  Ray recalled the linoleum on the floor moved up and down as if breathing when the wind blew. They cooked on a wood stove in the kitchen and got their water from the well.

Clothes were washed outdoors in a black iron pot over an open fire using lye soap. Bathing took place in the smokehouse in a #3 washtub.  The outhouse was approximately 30 yards out back.  During the depression, his grandmother, three aunts, two uncles and a cousin moved into their small home.


At the age of 6, Ray had the responsibility of feeding the pigs and chickens, gathering eggs and milking cows each morning and evening and helped to process the milk to sell to the creamery in Comanche.  During the summer, he worked with his family in the five-acre garden picking vegetables for canning and selling. Blackeyed peas were shelled by the family as they rode in a wagon to the market in DeLeon.


Ray attended the Duster School and at age 9, started singing in a quartet.  His teacher entered the quartet as “The Texas Cowboys” in a Horace Height Talent Contest and won first prize which was a trip to the Texas Centennial in Dallas. Thereafter, they sang every Wednesday night on KEPL radio station in Dublin.

His Dad contracted  with Higginbothams to farm the additional adjacent acreage and moved into a larger house “The House on the Hill”.  It was from this hill that Ray watched his school at Duster burn to the ground..  School  was resumed in the Tabernacle which was divided into three areas for teaching different subjects.  Ray attended school through the tenth grade at Duster.  He was active in all sports -- softball, basketball, and tennis.. 
Ray joined the US Navy in WWII at 16 years of age (he lied about his age, as many boys did at that time to get in). He served in the Pacific Fleet and was one of the first group US men to visit Nagasaki Japan after the bomb was dropped.

His senior year of high school was at Gorman.  The superintendent of the Gorman school contacted Ray’s parents and told them that if their son would attend the Gorman School and play all of the sports, that he would arrange a part- time job for Ray as well as transportation from the river to and from school. It was an offer they couldn’t refuse.  He graduated from Gorman High School  in 1943 at the age of 16.


He immediately joined the U.S. Navy during World War II with a signed permission from his Dad.  After  boot camp at Ferragut, Idaho, and small craft training at San Pedro, California, he received amphibious and special forces training at Coronada, California.  While there, Ray and two friends played  semi-pro baseball with the farm club in San Diego without approval of the Navy.  After Coronado, he served on the staff of Admiral B. J. Rogers, on five different ships  in the Southwest Pacific. They changed ships at night, for security reasons, by way of small boat or “climbing the rope” hand over hand.  During this time, Ray sent his paycheck and most of the money he won playing poker and crap shooting, to his parents to  purchase their first home.

Ray was in the first group that went ashore after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.
May 1946
Ray received an honorable discharge as a second-class petty officer in May, 1946.
Second Class Petty Officer

He was employed by Lone Star Gas and Producing Company as an oil scout in Eastland, Texas.  In 1947 he married Virginia Hamrick of Gorman.  They had two children, David Ray and Donald Jay.


In 1948, he moved to Abilene, Texas, to accept employment with Sohio Petroleum Company (Standard Oil Company of Ohio) and served for approximately twelve years in the Land and Legal  Department in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.  While employed by Sohio, he earned a law degree while attending night school. Sohio logo


While in Abilene, he played semi-pro baseball for a West Texas farm team.  After losing an important game, the manager said to him “ If I could hit the ball, play first base and left field as well as you, I would be very pleased.  But if I could not run the bases any better than you, I would get out of the game.” He took the coach’s advice.


 Ray left Sohio to establish Nugget Exploration Co. to explore for oil and gas as an independent.  At the same time, he was retained by McCulloch Oil Corporation of California for its Rocky Mountain oil and gas exploration.  Following a major gas discovery by Nugget Exploration and McCulloch Oil, they acquired the utility franchise for gas service for the northwest quarter of the state of Wyoming and constructed the pipelines necessary to service the franchise.   Ray moved from Casper, Wyoming, to Lake Havasu, Arizona, obtaining his Arizona Real Estate Brokers License, and joined R. P. McCullough in his land development project, Lake Havasu City.

McCulloch OIl logo

When Ray worked with Robert McCulloch of McCulloch Oil Co to develop the Lake Havasu resort in Arizona, to bring in more customers, he went with one another colleague to England and purchased the London bridge. He oversaw to have it torn down stone by stone, shipped to Arizona and rebuilt stone by stone.

Lake Havasu London Bridge
In 1967, Ray obtained his Texas Real Estate Brokers License and moved to Austin, Texas, to direct development and lot sales at Lago Vista on Lake Travis.  In that same year, he obtained his Wisconsin Real Estate Brokers License and purchased for development the Florsheim Estate on Lake Shishibogama near Minocqua, Wisconsin.  The development is Rockwood Estates. 
Minocqua Wisconsin Rockwood Estates
In 1969, Nation Resort Communities purchased Lago Vista. As a vice president and member of the board of directors of National Homes and executive vice president and general manager of National Resorts, Ray directed the expansion of National Resort’s image, finances, and organization.  National Resort entered a one-half interest joint venture agreement with the Hurd cousins to direct marketing at Horseshoe Bay on Lake LBJ.   
Lago Vista

Ray returned to Austin to develop and market his own properties --Scenic Cove, WatersEdge at Mount Bonnell Shores, Mount Bonnell Shores, Colorado Crossing, The Courtyard Phases Three A through F, St. Tropez, The Hook, The Island at Mount Bonnell Shores, (all Lake Austin waterfront properties);  Bello Vista (west Austin), Castle Forest (San Marcos), Champions Forest and Village of Angus Valley (north Austin).


His wife, Ann, has worked with Ray as his office manager through all of his many land development projects since 1972.  They have been married for 18 years, during which time, he retired five times. Three years ago, while returning from a trip to west Texas, he called her long distance -- thinking that was safer than breaking the news at home-- to tell her that he had purchased a beautiful piece of property for development and promised, once again, after this one  he would retire.


Throughout the years, Ray has been active in civic affairs including:  President of Civic Association in Broomfield, Colorado;  Active in Boy Scouts of America and Little League in Casper, Wyoming;  Lions Club and Member of the School Board, Lake Havasu City, Arizona;  Board of Directors of Mohave Savings and Loan Association, Kingman, Arizona;  Board of Regents, Grand Canyon College, Phoenix, Arizona; President and Board of Directors Travis county WCID, Lago Vista, Texas;  President and Board of Directors Highland Lakes Tourist Association, Austin, Texas.


Ray had many fond memories of fishing for rock bass in Wyoming with his two sons , David and Don,  and enjoyed a cookout in the evening over an open fire.  After moving to Texas, fishing was on Lake Travis.  During deer season, Ray, Dave and Don spent many hours hunting on his ranch outside of Johnson City . They would field dress the deer and then drive to Johnson City to Whittington’s that process the “world’s best” venison jerky and sausage.


Ray, Ann and Lisa spent summer evenings skiing, swimming and having picnics on the boat watching the sun going down on Lake Travis.


He was an avid sports fan -- following all the many baseball, basketball, and football games.


For many years on Wednesday afternoons, Ray played golf at Onion Creek, The Hills at Lakeway or Horseshoe Bay with three of his close friends, Paul Jones, Bill Scudder and Dick Criss.


Each summer, Ray looked forward to attending the Duster School  Reunion in DeLeon,  the Wolfenbarger Family Reunion in Eastland, and the Brown Family Reunion, in Brownwood where he visited and reminisced with school mates, friends and family.


Ray is preceded in death by his first wife, Virginia, and his son David Ray.


He is survived by his wife, Ann Nichols of Austin;  his son Donald J. Thomas of Johnson City, Texas;  stepdaughter, Lisa Henington Rosenhagen, and her husband Brad, and grandson , Blake, of Round Rock, Texas;  granddaughter , Kimberly Moreno, and her husband Jessie, great-grandchildren, Morgan, Madison, Mitchell, Makenna, and Mathew, of Eastland, Texas;  granddaughter, Kristi Quigley and her husband, Eugene, and great-grandsons, Collin and Kadin, of Lakeland, Georgia.


Ray was a devoted, kind and loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather.  He will be greatly missed.

Ray Thomas married Ann Hennigton at Green Pastures in Austin. 
July 20, 2011
Ray passed away on July 20, 2011.
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