Friday, December 6, 2013

A Life Lived: Vestal resident was active in Council of Churches, local choirs

When somebody like Ray Hull leaves the earth, holes suddenly appear.

“Ray was a very important person around here,” said the Rev. Dr. Joseph Sellepack, executive director of the Broome County Council of Churches. “He served on the budget and finance committee until he died.”

Ray had also served as treasurer of the board for years and, using his engineering background, as liaison between the building crew and the board of directors for the new Council building on the South Side of Binghamton.

“Whenever I had a building question, I called Ray,” Sellepack said.

Sellepack hadn’t been aware Ray had died on Oct. 15 at age 74 until he got what sounded like a routine phone call.

“We got a call from a lawyer who said we were named in the estate,” Sellepack said. “I asked if Ray was updating his will or something, and the lawyer said, ‘No, he died.’”

Those three words flabbergasted Sellepack, who’d often pick up the phone to find Ray on the other end, just calling to see how life was going.

Friends and family flocked to Ray’s memorial service on Nov. 30.

Man with the answers

Ray was the go-to guy at Longford Lake, too, while it was planning for its new sewer system, said Bob Alspaugh, who lived near Ray’s cottage there, in Brackney, Pa..

“If Ray wasn’t around for some reason, everybody got all excited because nobody else knew anything,” he said. At one early meeting, Ray hauled in three boxes of documents, containing blueprints for the lake’s dam, a map of the lake, and other papers that predated Ray’s time owning property there. “He became the informal historian.”

Hudda Aswad, of Binghamton, knew that Ray and his late and much-beloved wife Sharon, who died in 2009, had been particularly close.

They never had children but devoted time to various community causes, such as the Phelps Mansion Museum.

They enjoyed their home in Vestal and their place at the lake — and they loved cats.

“After Sharon died, the last cat died, and he never got another one,” Aswad said.

Ray was a sensitive man shaken to his roots when Sharon died unexpectedly during surgery, leaving him painfully alone. His three siblings live in Maryland, California and Tennessee.

Mr. Perfection

Indeed, Ray was no ordinary guy, said longtime friend Lou Perman, of Binghamton.

“He was a very intense person,” Perman said. “He would have everything all thought out before he started anything — a typical engineer. There’s always a better way of doing things. And I never knew him with his hair messed up, never saw him needing a haircut.”

Ray had retired after a long career with NYSEG. 

Perman worked side-by-side with Ray at Tuesday night work meetings at Tabernacle United Methodist Church, where administrative assistant Mal Cohen remembers him and his wife singing in the choir, then under the direction of locally renowned music man Alan Crabb.

He sang baritone to Sharon’s alto, and they reveled in the fellowship.

“He’d have choir parties in his house,” Cohen said.

Ray wasn’t only in the choir, but generally assisted with the hiring of the organist and choir director whenever an opening arose, explained longtime friend and fellow Tabernacle member David Gouldin.

“Ray was very bright, well-organized and a very solid financial thinker,” said attorney Gouldin, a partner with Levene Gouldin and Thompson LLP in Vestal. “He did a great deal to carry our church on his shoulders during his years of leadership here.”

The addition of contemporary songs at Tabernacle did not meet with Ray’s approval, and the Hulls began singing in the choir at United Presbyterian Church in Binghamton.

Music is the context in which Barbara Hickling, of Endwell, will best remember him.

“If there was a music event going on in this valley, he would be likely to turn up to sing,” she said.

When he made his annual pilgrimage to the Bach Festival in Bethlehem, Pa., he made his reservation for the next year.

That festival will now be missing one of its most enthusiastic supporters.

Written by
Valerie Zehl

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