August 28, 1919 - March 14, 2020
Born in Brighton, England
Resided in Salinas, California
Native son to England, born in Brighton on August 28, 1919 to Albert and Anna Firth. He and his sister Ellen were blessings after his father’s release from the Reuleben German prison. Newborn babies after WWI were dubbed ‘Peace Child’. As an infant the family moved to Italy where they enjoyed life speaking 3 languages, English, German and Italian. As Mussolini grew in power, Ray’s father recognized familiar tensions building in Europe and requested transfer. Work was secured in the United States, so the family emigrated to their new home in Chicago in late 1925. Ray grew up in the city and summered in Wisconsin when possible, graduated from Senn High, was active in rowing, basketball and ice skating. Ray attended Northwestern University, studied Marketing and even taught dance at Arthur Murry dance studio one summer. One of his first jobs was with Sears Roebuck and Company, of which he was most proud.
He became a US Citizen in February 1941 and 3 weeks later, on his mother’s birthday, March 11, 1941, he was drafted into the United States Army. Training camp was on the west coast and so was his sister Ellen. In the first days of December 1941, Ellen drove Ray to San Francisco to his new assignment aboard the SS Monterey, a fast troop carrier, that was bound for the Philippines. As the SS Monterey sailed somewhere in the Pacific, Pearl Harbor was bombed.
Under blackout conditions the ship returned to San Francisco, resupplied and set out on December 16, 1941, to be the first of four supply ships to arrive after the attack on Pearl. Ray was assigned to Pupukea for communications, standing watch along Oahu’s North Shore in the event there were to be another attack. This assignment lasted six months.
After Hawaii, Ray returned to the mainland in the summer of 1942. Ray attended officers training and spent a great deal of time at Camp Roberts training new recruits in artillery. This is where Ray fell in love with the California coast and all its beauty. He served until the end of the war where he was assigned to Fort Polk, Louisiana to await discharge papers. Ray spent many evenings at the officers club and met his dance partner and future bride Catherine Margaret Bone. They fell in love and married six months later in June of 1946.
Sears & Roebuck Company happily took Ray back after the war as the newlyweds settled in Modesto. The baby boom began for many after WWII and Ray became father to seven. There was another move with Sears to San Luis Obispo but only for a short while. In 1954 Sears transferred Ray to Salinas and boy did he love it. Totally in love with the weather especially having grown up in Chicago, he always commented how gorgeous it was around here.
Ray became a Catholic around 1956 and always admired Msgr. Thomas J. Early for his leadership. Ray & Kay joined the Lyons Club, participating often in fundraising selling white canes outside supermarkets with all the kids in tow. Ray was a Boy Scout troop leader for his son’s troop and was often fondly remember by those young scouts in their adult years. Ray loved music, especially the classical music station which was always on in his home. However, when it came to a dancing, it was big band music; Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Begin the Beguine, and so many more. Another claim to fame is Ray could make the bests Manhattan in town. When company arrived, Ray was quite the host and always ready with chips, cheese and a libation.
Ray loved his faith and shared it often. Sacred Heart Parish was a second home to Ray and all his children as they worked their way through Sacred Heart School, Palma, Notre Dame and Santa Catalina From 1954 through 1978 there was always a Firth in attendance. Ray was an usher, a lector, a Finance Committee member and even sang in the choir a few times. He never stopped supporting Sacred Heart School, so thankful he was for the education his children received. His fidelity to the beloved parish home was constant.
Ray owned and operated Firth’s Hardware on North Main St. during the 1960’s and early 1970’s. After the store closed, he sold insurance for California Farmer and assisted friends and family in establishing living trusts. He kept active, loving his golf game and his lunches with the SIRS. Sherwood Lake Mobile Home Park was a great move for Ray and Kay in the summer of 1989. Ray served on the board at the Park for several years and was very keen on helping the organization stay a course of steady maintenance and financial strength. He called it home for over thirty years.
A year after Kay died, Ray found love again with his "steady date" Carol Waddell. Carol was instrumental in buoying his spirit and giving new life. They shared a love of music, travel, dancing and even golf after Ray encouraged Carol to take up the sport. Carol passed away in July 2019, just shy of his 100th birthday. He missed her but managed beautifully through the holidays.
Ray was preceded in death by his parents Anna and Albert Firth, his sister Ellen Prendergast, wife Catherine, granddaughter Genevieve and his beloved companion of the last 12 years, Carol Waddell.
He is survived by his children: Anne Firth, Thomas Firth (Treva), John Firth, Mary Firth, Jane Firth, Barbara Frenchu (Bob) and Kathi Firth. Niece Laura Downing (Larry). Grandchildren: Steven Firth (Melissa), Christopher Firth (Peggy), Joshua Hair (KC), Travis Hair (Elizabeth), Heather Firth, Lynn Harris (Scott), Stephanie Bright (Will), Aimee Firth, Alexandra Firth and Anthony Frenchu. Great grandsons Nathan, Cole and Chaas Firth, great granddaughters Casey Cawelti (Ian) and Lexi Plummer (Joe) and 6 great, great grandchildren.
Ray was a father, grandfather, great grandfather, a devout Catholic, an immigrant, a US Army veteran, and a businessman.
May he rest in peace.
Visitation will be held 3:00p.m. to 7:00p.m. Thursday, March 19, 2020 at Struve and Laporte Chapel, 41 W. San Luis Street, Salinas, CA. 93901.
Rosary will be held at 7:00p.m. Thursday, March 19, 2020 at Struve and Laporte Chapel
Mass will be 9:30a.m. Friday, March 20, 2020, at Sacred Heart Church, 22 Stone Street, Salinas, CA. 93901.
Burial to follow at Queen of Heaven Cemetery, 18200 Damian Way, Salinas, CA. 93907. With Military Honors.
Salinas, California 93901
Salinas, California 93901
Salinas, CA US 93901
Salinas, CA US 93907