Many of his friends were not aware of his passing or the service held to honor his life.
I had known Ernie for the 42 years he was married to my sister-in-law, Wanda Ray Dieterich.
He raised her five boys, three of whom were my nephews, as they were his own!
He faithfully attended all their school activities, both academic and sports, and was so proud that the three Ray boys all graduated from college.
Ernie’s life work as an insurance investigator resulted in numerous very interesting cases, which he shared with me over the years.
He was a tireless participant in his work, his leisure(?
), and retirement activities.
His faith was a large part of his life and he served as a greeter for the Knox Presbyterian Church, which also benefited from his abilities to fix and repair things.
I believe Ernie’s sudden passing was known only to him and his doctors.
Not wanting to worry anyone, he quickly sold their home and had them comfortably settled in new quarters where Wanda would have her meals, new friends and all she would need.
Ernie lived life with passion and vitality.
He was unique in that everything was done with purpose and that continued until that day or time period ended.
I think of Ernie’s passion and extraordinary contributions to the Inland Northwest Blood Center.
He got started when he took my place on a mobile trip to a local high school and enjoyed it so much he continued for over 17 years!
Soon, he not only had his license to drive the blood mobile, but was doing nearly everything but drawing blood.
I think of a day when I was working in the blood bank canteen.
It was just shy of 9:00PM and some very tired nurses, whose day had started at 6:00AM, came through the back door, having returned from a mobile trip up north.
They were followed by Ernie with his infectious smile and cheery greeting and his arms full of supplies that needed to be unloaded.
Though he had driven the van and worked all day, he even offered to help me close the canteen.
Ernie started this volunteer work at an opportune time, as the blood bank was just starting to reach out to high school students.
He never missed an opportunity to teach and was an inspiration to nervous new donors learning early on to spot the probable fainters and reassure them.
When he missed a mobile run, the nurses were usually greeted with, “where’s Ernie?”
Though being given the opportunity to be on the payroll, he replied, “thanks, but that would take the fun out of it”.
There were at least two years when Ernie had over 800 hours with the blood bank, compared to my 120-150 hours.
He also donated well over 17 gallons of blood and who knows how many smiles and jokes.
Several people who contacted me after Ernie passed made basically the same comment: “If everyone lived their lives the way Ernie lived his and if they loved and treated their wives the way he treated Wanda, not only would the world be a better place, there would be a lot fewer divorces”.
Ernie’s memory may be honored by donating blood, money and/or volunteering at the Inland Northwest Blood Center.
Goodbye, old friend, you will be missed!