COOPERSTOWN – Henry Raymond “Ray” Armitage died Dec. 26, 2020, of COVID-19 at Bassett Hospital.
Born June 12, 1927, in Irvington, N.J., he was the son of Henry Raymond Armitage Sr. and Madelyn Montigel Armitage.
Ray was a member of the Cooperstown High School graduating class of 1944 and Colgate University, Class of 1949. After his freshman year at Colgate, Ray was called to the Navy in 1945 for one year of service before returning to finish his studies.
Ray served his first stint in the Navy on destroyer escort USS Loeser. He picked up ship in San Francisco’s Hunters Point Naval Yard, and was at the helm during passage through the Panama Canal and continued sailing up the Atlantic coast to New London, Conn.
After completing studies at Colgate, Ray was called back into service in 1950 and assigned to and boarded the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42) aircraft carrier in Norfolk, Va.
He was quartermaster (QMQ2) and navigator in the conning tower and, on occasion, took the helm.
They made one cruise to the Mediterranean and he was discharged at Lido Beach on Long Island. While in the Mediterranean he was able to do some sightseeing: Rome; where he had an audience with the Pope, skiing in the Italian Alps, the Acropolis in Greece, Paris, Oran, Algeria, where he saw the French Foreign Legion post there, and sailed through the Dardanelles to Istanbul.
On the return to the U.S., the Roosevelt passed the Rock of Gibraltar; he wrote his parents to say there was not a “Prudential” sign on it.
Ray joined the staff at Pfizer in 1952 in New York City, and worked overseeing quality control at Pfizer manufacturing in the U.S. Ray lived in NYC for his entire professional career on the East side in Tudor City. He loved New York and all that it offered; Ray especially loved Broadway and Ranger games at Madison Square Garden.
For many years Ray set aside Saturday evenings to listen to Garrison Keillor on the radio, relating to the small town nature of the programming, and seeing the “Prairie Home Companion” live on Broadway every year at Christmas. He retired in 1997 after enjoying a 45-year career with the same organization.
Ray grew up in Cooperstown and shared stories of a boyhood filled with antics and fun; building a sleep-out camp along with Dirck Harrison on the Susquehanna with lumber appropriated from the Iroquois Sawmill, summertime spent painting the barns and haying at Red Creek Farm, bicycling into town for milkshakes at the soda fountain. His childhood friends remained lifelong friends.
More even than sharing stories, Ray loved to hear what his friends, family and acquaintances were up to; he was a great listener. People will remember Ray in the community as always having the time for a hello, a joke, a story, words of encouragement and always willing to lend an ear.
Ray was generous with his time and that encouragement; a common phrase of his was, “Don’t be afraid, go ahead and try it; what’s the worst thing that could happen? You’ll learn something.” In that same vein Ray relished meeting new people and you knew by how he listened that he was genuinely interested and that you had made a new friend.
Ray was a lifelong Bridge player and an enthusiastic sportsman; ski club at Mount Otsego and regularly skiing Vermont, squash at the ACC Gym and at the Colgate Club in New York City, crew for Sam Smith Jr., racing Star Class sailing vessels in the Northeast, Fla., and Cuba and golfing at Leatherstocking Golf Club and Otsego Golf Club.
Many young golfers learned the rules and the etiquette of the game through caddying for Ray at Leatherstocking, which always included a milkshake from Mrs. Watts in between the 12th green and the 13th tee.
Even while working in NYC Ray always met his regular foursome at Leatherstocking Golf Club for their 7 a.m. Saturday tee time after breakfast at the Short Stop. In his later years Ray golfed at and supported the Otsego Golf Club where he was often seen with the club dogs, Frankie and BB, riding shotgun in the golf cart.
Along with Bobby Clark, Ray was a founding partner in the Cooperstown Batting Range, which provided a community ice rink for recreational skating and was the home ice for the Cooperstown Coopers. Ray was always a big hockey fan and was so pleased to have been able to help provide this to the community.
Countless local kids had summer jobs at the batting range and, under its current owners, that tradition continues to this day.
Ray loved keeping current with his family and friends; he took special joy in seeing photos and hearing about their travels and experiences. He was a born adventurer and relished his travels and knowing that his family continued in that spirit; he was so happy to hear of the adventures and travels of his niece Marcie and her family and his honorary nephew Bobby Amore, with whom he shared many a road trip.
Ray always felt fortunate and thrilled to have taken a flight on the Concorde from London for work. Ray kept a map with pins indicating the places he had travelled and that map was stuck full of holes. He loved and appreciated his travels but always returned home to Cooperstown.
Having lived in NYC and Cooperstown, Ray thoroughly enjoyed his recent residence at the Clara Welch Thanksgiving Home in Cooperstown. The community of staff and residents became a whole new group of friends and Ray enjoyed their company every day. After Ray’s passing a staff member noted, “What a life well lived. Ray touched many in his quiet, private way.” He certainly did.
Ray is survived by his niece, Marcie Wallace Ritter, her husband Steve Ritter and their children Melinda and Aaron Ritter, all in Pittsburgh. Ray’s honorary nephew Bobby Amore, New York City and Cooperstown, his wife Sarah Stewart and her son, Noble Mattson. He was predeceased by his parents, Henry Raymond Armitage, Sr. and Madelyn Montigel as well as his sister, Constance Armitage Wallace and her husband, Lavinder A. Wallace all from Cooperstown.
The family would like to thank the staffs of Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, Cooperstown Center for Rehab, and especially the staff of the Thanksgiving Home where Ray lived for the last four years.
Ray loved the family dogs, each of them over more recent years, rescues all of them: Frankie and BB, Pip and Angel. Very lucky dogs. In that spirit the family asks that in lieu of flowers, please donate to or adopt an animal from the Susquehanna SPCA.
Please wear a mask and observe other COVID precautions. Someone’s life may depend on it.
Arrangements are under the care of Tillapaugh Funeral Service, Cooperstown.