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I never met Diane, but Mike always said the kindest words about her. Her obituary chronicaled a beautiful life.
Diane Pauline Ray
Diane Pauline Ray passed away on June 26, 2021 at Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville from complications of COVID-19.
She was born on November 9th, 1954 in the Bronx, NY to the late Tom and Hedy O’Grady. Tom and Hedy knew they had a lively kid on their hands from the start, when one night Tom tried to break Diane’s habit of staying up late by rolling a ball back and forth to tire her out. Hedy walked in later to find Diane awake and Tom asleep on the floor. Diane was the oldest of five children. Her siblings Tom, Gene, Susan and Kathleen had a big sister who sometimes bent the rules for fun and always gave good advice. Because she was the oldest, she was the first to drive, and some of the O’Grady kids’ best memories were of Diane driving them around, often with the top down in their dad’s yellow Barracuda. She was also a great study partner, waking up at 4:30 in the morning to finish homework before school. She graduated from Cocoa Beach High School in 1972 and earned her bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the Florida Institute of Technology in 1977. It was there that she met her husband, Michael Ray, in calculus class; they celebrated their 44th wedding anniversary on November 27th, 2020. Diane often told the story of how Mike saved her when she flipped a Sunfish during a sailing club outing, and despite these heroics and his well-deserved nickname, ‘Saint Michael’, he insists that he was the one who married up. Diane and Mike raised three children together: Jennifer, Miranda, and Stephen, as well as one niece, Eileen, and she was mother to many, many more.
Diane truly lived by the motto ‘the more the merrier’. When just starting out together, Diane and Mike opened their home to several of Diane’s family members, which at one point meant five adults and four children lived in a 1,000 square foot, two-bedroom house. Even after they expanded into a home three times the size, it filled up just as quickly with some of that same family, along with kids from their new neighborhood in Coral Springs. That was the way she liked her homes – full of people she loved. The front door was never locked because everyone was welcome at any time. The only rule was that once you opened the door, you had to say your name; then you just came on in. There were many dinners where the table was crowded with kids, and Diane and Mike’s own kids weren’t even there. Even dogs would run away to come to this house that was full of love, laughter, support and acceptance. The family lived in this house for 20 years. These years made for some of the happiest of her life.
Diane was also the kind of person who lived by the family saying ‘make it happen’. She somehow found the time and energy to create multiple baby books for each of her children, and she was one of those moms who drove a minivan with pride. She played taxi driver for her kids and other people’s kids, back and forth between school, parties and gatherings, violin lessons, piano lessons, and countless soccer practices, games, and tournaments. When her kids were older, she often picked them up at too late hours, overlooking any transgressions that may have occurred, including towed cars and boozy giggles. None of that mattered to her; what mattered was that her kids were home and safe. When they were out, she never came to bed. It wasn’t until she knew they were home that she would rest. Even with a house and dinner table always full, she volunteered at the Florida United Girls Soccer Association (FLUGSA) for many years. She wasn’t just a soccer wife or a soccer mom; she was a member of the soccer community. When she wore the hat of soccer mom, she sat in the stands, yelling and shaking a jug with pennies in it to cheer on her kids, but really she cheered for everyone. No matter what it was, she wanted to celebrate it, often shouting “wonderful” and “fantastic” to commemorate even the smallest victories. Most recently, she set up a 60th anniversary dinner for her brother and sister in-law, Wayne and Shirley, wanting to make their day as special as possible.
Throughout all of this, she continued to work outside the home, always with computers, before computers were things that people had in their pockets. She was sneaky smart, a woman far ahead of her time, working in a STEM career where at first she did programming and then a whole lot of everything else. Her most recent position was as Office Manager at Preferred Benefits in Pleasanton.
The most difficult thing Diane did was move across the country to California. This was because it was away from her children, her family, and her friends, but it didn’t take long for her to fall for California and the entire San Francisco Bay area, which she called home for 16 years. She made new friends. Her daughter Mandy moved out west. She and Mike embarked on many adventures together, including a dream trip to Australia to see the Great Barrier Reef. Soon enough she found happiness in somewhere unexpected. She loved having visitors, and she was known to invite not only her kids but her kids’ friends on any and every vacation. Two trips to Lake Tahoe were a couple of her favorites, along with a Ray family reunion in Emerald Isle. When visitors came to her house, she always made her guests feel special by filling her fridge with the things they liked to eat, breaking out the fluffy towels, and offering an ever-growing list of possible activities. She fussed over all of it because she wanted you to have a great time, and you did. When it came time for retirement, Diane sought a home back on the east coast, and she and Mike landed in Fernandina Beach where they bought a big house to yet again fill with family, friends, and memories.
Anyone who knew Diane knew that her loving nature didn’t end with people. Whether they were hers or not, Diane cared for so many animals. Over her years there was an injured cormorant, an aviary full of parakeets, a hamster, a Lucky bunny, huge saltwater aquariums, and many dogs who captured her heart as much as she captured theirs – Shauneen, Muffin, Paige, Tigger, George, Flash, and Dahlae.
Diane was the type of person who remembered every birthday, anniversary, and graduation. She was the kind of person who showed up, always. She might have been a little bit late, but she was there for you, no matter what. One time, she was way too early. That was when her twin grandsons Austin and Tristan were born; even though Jen and Vinny requested that everyone wait to come to the hospital, she couldn’t resist and actually met little Austin in the NICU before his own mom. This was of little surprise. Diane loved all children, but holding a baby for her was pure joy.
You could also always count on Diane to answer the phone, day (and especially night) and talk to you about anything and through anything, and one of her all-time favorite things to do was sit and talk at the kitchen table. We all have our faults, but that didn’t matter to her. The only opinions she cared about were of the people closest to her. She would go to bat for those people and did whatever it took and whatever she could to ensure their wellbeing and happiness.
She was known by several names – Diane, Mom, Grandma Ray, Aunt Diane, and Mama Ray. Her heart was full of love for so many. In her car she has a rock painted with a heart and the words “Love like crazy”. She followed that to the letter. She loved her friends, her neighbors, and all of her neighborhoods’ kids, her parents, her brothers and sisters, and the entire Ray family who became her own. She loved her nieces and nephews and cousins and all of their children. She loved her children – Jennifer and her husband Vincent and their twins Austin and Tristan (Caschetta), Mandy and her children Layla and Logan, and Stephen and his wife Sarah; Eileen and her husband Jeremy and their children Phoebe, Nile, and Lola (Couser). Most of all, she loved her husband Michael, who she called ‘Love’. And all of these people that Diane loved with a heart that was most certainly infinite, loved her, and they always will.
The service for Diane will be held in the Burgess Chapel of Oxley-Heard Funeral Directors in Fernandina Beach on Saturday, July 10, 2021 at 11 a.m. with a celebration of life to be held afterwards. The family asks that all who attend please wear a mask due to COVID concerns The family asks those who would send flowers consider donations in her memory be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Diane will be laid to rest in the memorial garden at Our Saviour Catholic Church in Cocoa Beach.