Ray Smothers passed away at home on Aug. 9, 2017. Ray was born in Portland, Oregon, on July 8, 1947. His family moved to Columbia in 1957 when Ray was 10 years old. Columbia was “magical,” according to Ray. The stagecoach concession was run by Zane Orr and, at age 15, he became a “Stagecoach Bandit,” wearing a cowboy hat and a black bandana partially covering his face. His eyes would melt girls hearts. Zane taught Ray what he knew about horses and driving a team. He drove a stagecoach at Knotts Berry farm, but didn’t care for “city girls.” Zane became Ray’s mentor and helped guide him on his new path in life.
In 1976, bicentennial year, he drove a stagecoach to Kennedy from Sonora in the wagon train. Other jobs took him to Bodie, Johnsville and Coloma, where he worked as an apprentice carpenter for the State of California. He was an artist in building picket fences and restoring old foundations. “Desperado” was his favorite song, and then he met the tall, blond “Dane,” they became known as the “Sugarbears.” Ray ran a well-drilling rig in Stanley, Idaho, and then worked for George Reed for 26 years, driving a transit mixer, and retired when he was 62. The “Stagecoach Bandit” stole Helen’s heart and, above Emerald Waters, Lake Tahoe, it was til death do us part. They traveled to Denmark to meet his bride’s relatives. Germany and Switzerland treated them well as they visited dear friends. Sometimes the Pacific Ocean would whisper, “Come to Cayucos.” It was their favorite beach town, a Columbia on the ocean.
Ray continued building his shop, a greenhouse and a guest cabin with queen bunk beds! Along with working on their cabin.
Ray was a loving, kind, caring, sharing, gentle soul that helped whenever or whoever he could.
“Sugarbear” will be so missed but know this: “My heart will always fly to you. For 39 years we were hand to hand and heart to heart. A gift to each other.”
He was preceded in death by his parents, Dorothy Mae and Willis Wayne Smothers.
Ray is survived by his wife and soulmate, Helen; his siblings, Victor (Linda) Smothers, Darrel (Carol) Smothers, Donna (Jim) and Eddie Howell, Bobby (Diana) Wainwright; and many family and friends.
A celebration of life will be held from noon to 2 p.m. Oct. 27, 2017, at Angelo's Hall in Colum