When Ray Wright and his wife retired to Florida in 2001, he wanted a way to stay active. So he took up tennis. Then a friend asked him to compete in senior sports, running the 100-meters.
“The next day, my legs were so sore.” He laughed. “I don’t do running, but I can throw. On the farm growing up, I threw pitchforks, so I threw the javelin.”
Now his house and garage in Justin, where he’s lived since 2018, are filled with a bunch of medals and ribbons he’s won.
The latest? A weighty bronze medal adorned with the bridges of Pittsburgh, where he tossed his javelin almost 42 feet at the National Senior Games in July. He also brought home a sixth-place ribbon in the discus.
The National Senior Games are for folks 50 and up. At 91 years, four months, and 21 days the day of the javelin toss, Ray competes in the division for 90-94-year-olds. Twelve men were in his age group, but they weren’t the oldest — three competed in the 95+ category, including one man who was 99.
His oldest son, who lives in Roanoke, wanted to help Ray drive the 2,500-mile round trip to Pittsburgh. “I told him no. I need to concentrate,” Ray said. When his wife Ada was alive and she accompanied him, he would worry about her – if she had a seat, if she was in the sun or shade. “I didn’t need that. I had to think about where do I need to be, get there early, and do what I had to do.”
In a way, Ada still goes with him on his journeys — Ray attached her picture to the passenger seat. They were married for 65 years, six months, and seven days before she passed in April 2019. Her picture rides in the passenger seat when he goes almost everywhere, and he visits her at the cemetery every Friday.
Ray met Ada, a native Puerto Rican, when he was stationed there with the Air Force in the 1950s. “She wrote me a letter every day I was in the service,” he said. “I still have every one of those letters. I sit down and read one every night.”
Together, they had four sons, and three of them live nearby, in Roanoke, in East Texas, and east of Dallas. (The fourth passed away at age 4 from leukemia. Ray recently had him relocated from Rochester, NY, so the whole family is together again in Texas.) He also has four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Last year, Ray brought home four ribbons in the javelin, discus, shot put, and long jump from the national games in Fort Lauderdale (the every-two-year competition was postponed to 2022 because of Covid). “I outdid myself,” he said, indicating the bronze.
And he’s already thinking about the 2025 games in Des Moines. “If I make it that long,” he smiled. For a man who still does his own yard work and carries a leaf blower to clean clippings off Ada’s resting place, that’s a real possibility. If so, he and Ada will hop in the car and head north.