Ray Silas Cooley
COLCHESTER – Ray Silas Cooley, 87, passed away peacefully Saturday, April 14, at the VNA Respite House in Colchester with his wife and family by his side. He was the second of three sons born to William and Marian (Unwin) Cooley growing up on a farm in Montpelier.
Ray joined the Army at 17 during the Korean War and honorably discharged returned to Barre and married Lillian Clark with whom he had three daughters.
In his 20s, he and older brother Ronald started a paving company in Barre, his brother Reginald, a.k.a. Spade, would join them later. Cooley Corp. became well known throughout New England and New York doing paving, site work, sewer and water systems, closing landfills, building bike paths and doing state highway projects. The company later purchased an asphalt plant in Newburgh, N.Y. which led to the paving of Stewart Air Base and other contracts in New York.
During the 50s, Ray was a top stock car driver at dirt tracks in Vermont and New Hampshire and as president of Cooley Corp., he partnered with Ken Squier of WDEV radio in the building of Thunder Road Speedway in Barre and Catamount Stadium in Milton. He was the first president of Thunder Road and so proud to have been part of what is still popular today.
His interests were many and varied. He was a president of the Charlotte-Shelburne Rotary Club and a Paul Harris Fellowship recipient. He initiated and chaired their first annual Car Raffle Fundraiser and chaired the first Hot Air Balloon Festival on the grounds of Shelburne Museum including a welcome party aboard the Ticonderoga for over 200 guests.
He enjoyed golf at the Burlington Country Club, was a member of the Ethan Allen Club where he played cribbage and a member of Shelburne United Methodist Church. In early years, he was a member of the Civil Air Patrol and a water commissioner in Shelburne. He and family and friends boated on Lake Champlain and beyond, and he enjoyed motorcycling with friends. Ray was a Shriner and member of Mt. Sinai Temple in line to have been the youngest Potentate. He was a member of the marching patrol, co-chaired the annual VT/NH annual football game in Hanover and started a motorcycle drill unit for parades comprised of 10 members on Honda 250 bikes. He also dabbled at cooking, took saxophone and organ lessons and was a pilot with over 2,000 hrs.
After retiring from construction, Ray worked for The Automaster for ten years driving shuttle, delivering parts and doing dealer swaps. He retired at 79. On his 80th birthday, he was given a surprise party with a banner that read “A Man of Many Hats and a Dry Martini” – his beverage of choice.
He is survived by his wife Sherry of 47 years; four children: Judy, Cindy, Wanda (husband Kim) and Steve (wife Kara); nine grandchildren: Jeremy Grenier (wife Lori), Shawn Semperbon (wife Missy), Shane (wife Jessica), Jamie Semperbon, Dustin and Heather Perry, Lucien Laurendeau and Keegan and Riker Cooley; great grandchildren: Ryan, Emilee, Olivia, Justin, Jordan, Jack, Sienna and Aiden.
A Celebration of Life will be held on Tuesday, May 1 at 11 a.m. at the Shelburne United Methodist Church with a reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, the family requests any donations be made to either Shelburne United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 365, Shelburne, VT 05482, the Shriners (LoveShriners.org) or the VNA Respite House, 3113 Roosevelt Highway, Colchester, VT 05446.
Corbin and Palmer Funeral Home, 9 Pleasant St., Essex Junction, Vt., is assisting with arrangements.