Niagara Gazette — What do you say when your best friend dies?
Arthur Benjamin Ray passed away last Friday.
He is my best friend.
Nearly 20 years my senior, a generation older, centuries wiser, I cannot for the life of me recall when we first met; a good friend of my parents, he probably held me when I was a baby.
Over the years, he watched me grow and when it was time, just when I needed him, he helped me grow up.
He taught me some of life’s most valuable lessons.
I can honestly say, I learned a lot by just being around him, watching, listening.
Art, or A.B. as he preferred, loved children; he loved people; he loved everybody, even those who, for whatever reason, did not fully appreciate him.
People kept him GOING in every sense of the word.
He liked to talk…to anyone, including perfect strangers, but more importantly, he liked to listen.
He knew how to politely invade your personal space; he’d lower his voice to an almost imperceptible whisper, and in moments have you bent over laughing, no matter how serious the situation.
His cherubic melodic bellows could be heard everywhere, especially his heart-felt laughter.
A.B. laughed from the heart, a reassuring passionate, caring laughter that made people believe that, no matter how grave a situation might seem at the moment, everything would be alright.
If you were out and about and looking for A.B., you need only to stand still for a moment and listen, you’d hear him in the middle of a crowded store, a church or in the halls and chambers of law and government from Albany to Washington, D.C., A.B. could be heard.
I have witnessed United States Congresspersons, senators, state officials and dignitaries from all over the world pick A.B. out of a crowd, walk over to him, shake his hand, call him by name and pay homage to him, giving him a level of respect few deserve, or will ever earn.