Remembering Grandpa

Ray Honea

When the phone rang I was sitting in a ritzy hotel in a fancy town, surrounded by people I barely knew and those I hold quite dearly. There was wine, a fireplace, and much in the way of laughter. The phone was buzzing in my hand, my father’s name printed across the screen, and I let time linger there for a moment—one last second in a world posh and filtered, full of glossy promise, where I had never been told that my grandfather was dead.

“He’s gone,” said my father across the line, and then he talked of specifics and things for the better. I answered in careful whisper, said what I could, then walked down the hall with the help of a shoulder—feeling pale, weak, and an awful lot like crying.


Clifford “Ray” Honea was born in 1925. He had been a pioneer in a western town, one that his son, my father, still serves as mayor today. He had been a police officer, a fireman, a business owner, a politician, and a soldier. He bowled, loved birds, sports, and the art of the argument. He was loud, opinionated, and quick with a joke. He was my grandpa, and I loved him fiercely.

It had only been a week since the stroke and heart attack, but his seemingly quick departure had actually been years in the making. It started the day my grandmother died, when he had buried his spark and gave way to a life of longing, pain, and frailty. Each day without her was another day of cruel survival, a staring contest with fate that left him always waiting, always hoping it was over.

But even then there were still times when he forgot himself and would let the carnival of childhood bounce through his door and find ways to entertain him. The boys would surround him with affection, recharge him with bits of perk and playfulness, and let the dust fall from his smiles. His eyes would twinkle then, with a little boy holding tight to either side, and he would let himself be happy, if only for a moment.

His life was long, packed with love, and filled with grand adventure. There are many stories that should be told of Ray Honea and the years that I spent with him, and someday I will share those with my children, but today I can only tell the boys that their Grammpy is gone—another broken heart in search of someplace better, and we will remember always how they made him laugh in the days that passed between them.


This is the official obituary for C. Ray Honea:

C. Ray Honea

Our dad, grandpa, and great-grandpa, C. Ray Honea, passed away May 4, 2013. He was born January 21, 1925 in Tempe, AZ. Ray was the third of eight children and was married to Wynema Steele Honea (deceased) for 62 years. Ray and Wynema started the Honea Heights Neighborhood and Honea Water Company, respectively, both in Marana, in 1953. They had three children: Ed (Jan-deceased), Wayne (Cathy), and Pam. They had seven grandchildren: Whit (Tricia), Tiffany Phoenix (Wynter), Gary (Jo), Charlene Hugo (Tim), Curtis (deceased), Wayne II, and Nema Shapiro (Steve). They also had 12 great-grandchildren: Atticus, Zane, Avery, Jessica, and Brianna Honea; Jordan, Sydney, and Ethan Shapiro; Anneliese, Evan, Emma, and Ava Hugo. Ray was a member of Marana’s First Town Council (1977). He is the former chair of the Marana Planning Commission. Ray also served 29 years on the Trico Electric Board of Directors. His passion was racing (homing pigeons) in which he won two All-American Awards. In lieu of flowers please make a donation to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America. Services will be held at Marana Community Christian Church on May 18th at 10 a.m.

For more on my grandfather and his legacy please read this “Meet the Honeas” article from the Explorer News.

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