in memoriam

Mira Loma drama teacher Jeff Ray challenged students

By Walter Yost -- Neighbors Staff Writer
Published 2:15 a.m. PDT Thursday, June 6, 2002

High school drama teacher Jeff Ray, who encouraged his students constantly to expand their boundaries, died Monday at Marshall Hospital in Placerville after battling a bone infection for months.

He was 52.

Mr. Ray had taught drama at Sacramento's Mira Loma High School since 1997. He pioneered the first theater arts class in the school's International Baccalaureate program. He had been on medical leave most of this year.

"He was on the creative edge. He strived for excellence and really challenged the students," said Principal Ed Marquez.

"He didn't do standard high school fare. A lot of students appreciated that," said David Leisk, a former student of Mr. Ray's.

Mr. Ray was born into a show business family in Pasadena. His grandfather, Jim Cassidy, and his grandmother, Ruth Elder, both acted in silent films and helped start a community theater in Altadena.

While living in the Los Angeles area, Mr. Ray was a TV scriptwriter whose credits included "Greatest American Hero," "Hunter," "Hardcastle & McCormick," and "The A Team."

"He thought it was hilarious that he wrote dialogue for Mr. T," his wife, Maggie, said of the taciturn star of "The A Team."

After the Rays moved to El Dorado County in 1992, Mr. Ray taught at Northern California Preparatory School in Sacramento before being hired as drama teacher at Mira Loma.

Two years ago, in an effort to provide his students with more theater experience, Mr. Ray formed Lookout Productions, which staged "Bleacher Bums" and "Sly Fox" at the Eagle Theatre in Old Sacramento.

During summers, he often worked with severely emotionally disabled children, introducing them to drama, said Maggie Ray. "It was a chance for them to have a success in something and get that applause," she said.

His students won several drama awards, including Elly Awards from the Sacramento Area Regional Theater Alliance and honors at the annual Lenaea Festival at California State University, Sacramento.

In spring of 2000, Mr. Ray was named Teacher of the Year by the San Juan Unified School District PTA Council. Last year he won an Elly for directing "The Boys Next Door" at Mira Loma.

Marquez said the entire staff at Mira Loma recognized Mr. Ray for "being a true educator of the fine arts."

Survivors include his wife, Maggie Ray of Diamond Springs; son, Sander Thomas of Davis; and daughters, Tessa Thomas and Dorothy Ray, both of Diamond Springs.

Memorial services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in Presentation Church, 4321 Robertson Ave., Sacramento.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Mira Loma High School Drama Department, 4000 Edison Ave., Sacramento, 95821, or the American Diabetes Association Memorial and Honor Program, P.O. Box 2680 North Canton, Ohio 44720.

 

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