By Jack James
In Tibet, they look for wisdom from the old man on the mountaintop. Lavaca really doesn’t have a mountaintop, but you can find all kinds of interesting life stories and wisdom if you sit and listen to the seasoned citizens of our town. One of those men is Jimmy Dan Ray.
As Jimmy Dan sits at a table in the deli area at CV’s Family Grocery, he and other old boys discuss horses, cattle and farming. His hearing isn’t what it used to be and his eyes have dimmed through the years, but his mind is as sharp as ever. Between teasing his friends with pet nicknames and getting others to pour his fourth, fifth or sixth cup of coffee, Jimmy Dan will fill your head with stories from the past.
Jimmy Dan was born to ‘Boots” and Sabra Cross Ray in Lavaca in 1934. His father was somewhat of a local legend in basketball. It was Boots and his high school basketball team that went to state in 1928 and gave the Lavaca Golden Arrows their name. Jimmy Dan followed his father’s love of the sport and his team went to state during his own senior year in 1952. He still follows the Golden Arrows closely. At 14 years old, Jimmy Dan began working at Fort Chaffee and in the fields of Lavaca Berries where he made an impressive fifty cents an hour. Well, at least he did, before he got fired from picking berries.
Jimmy Dan served his country in the Army for two years in the late1950’s. Somewhere along the way, he met and married the love of his life, Fran. Fran was a transplant, someone who wasn’t born and raised here, but she was welcomed just the same. They have three sons and one daughter and remain together still today.
Jimmy Dan took care of his mother until her passing at age ninety-nine. He went to her home on Main Street every morning and made her breakfast in the house that she had been born in. That home remains in the family even now. She was a wealth of information, just like her son, who can recall names, places and events just like he was reading it from a page in a book. His reflection provides entertainment and education to people like me, who could sit and visit with him for hours.
A stroke and passing years may have slowed him down some but Jimmy Dan is still one of a kind. If you get a chance to visit with Jimmy Dan Ray, do it. Just make sure that there’s plenty of coffee and keep it coming.
We are honored to feature Ray in this month’s Hometown Highlight, ordinary people doing extraordinary things! If you have a nomination for Hometown Highlight, you can email it to us!