Van's Tribute to Governor Robert D. Ray

I was sorry to hear of the passing of former Iowa Governor Robert Ray. I want to ad my sympathies pouring in from all over the globe because of the things he did that were enormous in importance and stature. I’m sure you will read and hear many of them so I won’t recount those here.  However, Governor Ray and I did have a number of fun personal interactions that pointed out to me what an exceptional person he was.

I was a young disc jockey on KRNT radio for 10 years in the mid 70’s to 80’s. Early in that job I got a call from David Oman who worked in the Governor’s office. He introduced himself, said that the Governor often listened to me, liked what I did and wanted to invite me to his office to thank me. As a small town kid from Adel, that came as quite a shock. The day we arranged turned out to be cold. Ten below zero to be exact. They walked me into his office and we sat and talked. He thanked me for coming and I remember saying, “Well, I always knew it would be a cold day when I got invited to the Governor’s office.” He howled.

On his 50 the birthday, I called his wife Billie privately and asked if I could bring 50 helium balloons to the Governor’s Mansion so he would have them at the end of the day when he got home from the Capitol. She thought it was a great idea, so I got them, took them over to Terrace Hill and was given a grand tour of the mansion.  The top floor is the Governor’s private residence and off limits to the public, but she wanted me to put them in their bedroom, so I did.  Two days later I received a fun and funny note from the Governor that said he counted the balloons and there were indeed 50, but that he popped a few to feel younger.

Once someone pointed out to me a want ad that offered a used black Lincoln Continental for sale.  It mentioned that it was used by Governor Ray, who then had moved on and was working at the United Nations in New York.  I found David Oman and he gave me the Governor’s phone number in New York. I called him and he agreed to go on the air with me to talk about the car. When we got on the air I told him I was considering buying a car and saw the ad for this one.  I told him I made a point of never buying a used car without talking to the previous owner.  He loved it and played right along. I asked him what kind of mileage it got. “Terrible!” he said. I asked if was easy to start on a cold day. He said, “I don’t know.  I never drove it.  A state trooper always drove me around!”

Robert Ray was a wise, fun, compassionate public servant.  We will miss him.  We need more like him.

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