Governor Robert Ray is remembered as a beloved leader who was blessed with a penetrating humanitarian sensitivity which he boldly acted upon. He is regarded as possessing the traits which best characterize us as Iowans.
Two episodes especially stand out for us Catholics.
The first is the Governor’s leadership in responding in the aftermath of the Vietnamese War. Beginning in 1977 he led the outreach to the Tai Dam, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Lao refugees. Through his mediation thousands settled in Iowa. They have since contributed significantly as their cultures have blended with the Hawkeye tradition.
In 1979, he led the campaign to reach out to refugees in Thailand and Cambodia to provide critical foods and medicines. This was accomplished by the renowned “Iowa Shares” program which brought supplies to desperate Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand initially via Catholic Relief Services on Christmas, 1979.
Governor Ray established the gold standard which could well be revived in the immigration and refugee morass our country is experiencing.
The second episode is the visit of Pope John Paul II to Living History Farms and the State of Iowa on October 4, 1979. Governor Ray’s cooperation in providing security, shutting down the freeways for the day of the visit and enabling Iowa’s legendary hospitality to be widely exercised contributed to making the event one of the most memorable in our state’s history.
Our state was blessed by the Governor’s leadership and gentle, humble style. We are grateful for the gift he was and remember him, his wife Billie Ray and family in prayer.