Gordon Raymond “Ray” West, 88, of Port Charlotte, Fla., passed away Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, at his Port Charlotte residence.
Ray was born in Springfield, Mo., to G. Raymond and Mae West.
He attended high school and Drury College in Springfield, and graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Great Neck, Long Island, N.Y., with a B.S. degree in Marine Engineering.
His seagoing career began during World War II, and extended beyond the Vietnam War. He served in a fleet tanker to the South Pacific and three cargo ships in the North Atlantic during WWII. Ray then served aboard the USS Antietam (CV 36), the Groton (PCE 900), Shasta (AE6), the Whetstone (LSD 27), the Burton Island (AGB1), and the Interceptor (AGR 8) as Commanding Officer, the Gunston Hall (LS5) as Commanding Officer, and the Oklahoma City (CG5) as the Amphibious Officer on the staff of Commander 7th Fleet. The Gunston Hall and Oklahoma City were during the Vietnam War. He retired from the U.S. Navy after 31 years of service to his country.
Gordon Raymond “Commander Ray” West
Ray’s military and civilian life would have made an interesting movie. In his early years, he conducted a dance/decorum class for 8- to 12-year-olds to dance and become young ladies and gentlemen; he made guest appearances as vocal soloist on radio stations; sang soloist with a U.S. troupe at Army Hospitals; and made several appearances at various churches as a guest soloist.
He was an acolyte and cross bearer in church; worked as a shill for a casino in Reno; and a bookie (for the mafia) in South Beach, Miami, Fla. He lived in a homeless camp on the banks of the Sacramento River, and he was a guest and was entertained at a castle in Europe.
Ray walked around the world (at the South Pole); scuba dived in 29-degree water temperatures under an ice cap; played football with the Penguins; and rode a seal while in the Antarctic.
His many journeys with intriguing stories took him to The Great Wall of China; the Taj Mahal in India; Kathmandu, Nepal; the Anchor Wat Temples in Cambodia; a plane ride over an erupting Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, North of the Arctic Circle; the Peacock Throne in the palace in Teheran, Iran; a tour of the Holy Land; the Vatican in Italy; the Acropolis in Greece; Gibraltar; Tahiti; and many more locales, visiting over 67 countries and territories. Ray transited the Panama Canal five times, and flew around the world four times.
Ray was a member of Solomon Lodge and Abouben – Adhem Shrine Temple of Springfield, Mo., B.P.O. Elks Lodge 1795 of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Scottish Rite of Pensacola, Fla., and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 9076 of Pattaya, Thailand, and American Legion D. N. McQueen Post No. 103 of Punta Gorda, Fla. An active tennis player, Ray belonged to several tennis clubs in Port Charlotte and was a member of the Village Racquet Club of Punta Gorda.
Ray is survived his much loved wife, Rumpung; three sons, Michael, Robert, and Mark West; had the pleasure of raising his wife’s daughters, Juem Peters, and Netnapha Jaithan; and he was also blessed with seven grandchildren, Michael, Savannah, Natalie, Nicky, Jade, Hailey, and Dylan. His father preceded his mother in death at an early age.
A Committal Service with Military Honors by the U.S. Navy, was held Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, at the Sarasota National Cemetery in Sarasota, Fla. Friends may visit online at www.robersonfh.com to sign the memory book and extend condolences to the family.
As friend Ernie Bakke put it, “After he retired, for over 30 years Thailand was the country he always would come back to.” During those 30 years he made many friends here, and was a big part of the Pattaya Hash House Harriers. Rest in Peace, Commander Ray, you will be missed.