Photo courtesy of Noah Ray
Bulldog sousaphone player dies after debut at Bulldog Stadium
Fresno State Freshman Nathan Ray died in a car crash early Sunday morning, just hours after playing in the marching band at his first football game in Bulldog Stadium.
Ray was traveling east on Highway 168, west of Shepherd Avenue around 12:48 a.m. Sunday when his 2002 Subaru Forester drifted off the road, rolled over and smashed into a telephone pole, the California Highway Patrol reported. He was taken to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno where he later died.
Ray, a sousaphone player, was driving home from Double Play Pizza in Clovis after celebrating the Bulldog’s victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats Saturday night, his family said.
Ray’s mother, LouAnne Ray, said she is heart broken that she will never get to see where life would have led her son. She said Ray’s family will miss his great sense of humor, pure heart and quick wit that made him a joy to be around.
“I don’t know what we are going to do without him,” she said. “There’s a lot of hurting hearts right now.”
Ray was born on July 2, 1992 in Fresno. A little more than a year later, his family moved to their Clovis home, where Ray was living while attending Fresno State. His room was filled with the things he loved: Posters of Star Wars characters; shelves teeming with thick books; music instruments; a German flag and a large map of Germany.
Ray was a music education major and a German minor at Fresno State, aspiring to become a music teacher in Germany, said his father, Jim Ray.
Friends and family remember Ray as a pure-hearted man with a passion for music.
“I think Nathan really found his direction in life and his joy in life when he started being involved with music,” he said.
Ray was thrilled to attend Fresno State because it has a strong music program, Jim Ray said. He said Ray could not be persuaded to apply to any other college and was ecstatic about receiving an education that would prepare him for his ideal career, Jim Ray added.
“This was the happiest time in his whole life,” he said.
Fresno State Bulldog Marching Band Director Timothy Anderson said Ray was looking forward to playing the tuba at his first football game. He said Ray worked hard, never complained and always strived to improve his playing.
Photo courtesy of Noah Ray
“Nathan was a wonderful young man,” he said. “He always had a wonderful attitude.”
Anderson said the marching band planned to gather in the Music Building Tuesday evening to share pictures and stories of Ray. He said the band is planning to dedicate the rest of the season to Nathan Ray.
Likewise, Bruce Weinberger, a music teacher at Sierra High School, said the high school band is planning to get together Thursday night to share stories about Nathan Ray.
Weinberger said Ray was a very generous and kind person who was friends with everyone he met. He said Ray genuinely cared about his fellow students.
Weinberger said music was one of the most important things in Ray’s life—especially the tuba, which he had been playing since fifth grade. Ray was in the Concert Band, Jazz Band and the Orchestra his senior year, playing the tuba, trombone and upright bass in each band, respectively. He was also a member of the Chamber Choir and Concert Choir.
“He lived for music,” Weinberger said. “That’s what he did—music was his thing.”
A.J. Wulf said he immediately became friends with Ray when the two first met in kindergarten. He said Ray was always a joy to be around because he had a positive attitude and the kind of disposition that was obvious to “everyone and anyone who knew him.”
Wulf said the last time he saw Ray was Friday night at a mutual friend’s party. Wulf said he has been struggling to understand the tragedy and cried for nearly five hours Sunday morning after learning his friend had died.
“It’s very difficult,” Wulf said. “I guess I’m coping as well as people do when someone they’ve known and loved for all their life just died.”
The cause of the accident is being investigated, but alcohol was not considered a factor in the crash.
Ray is survived by: his parents, Jim Ray and LouAnne Ray; and his siblings, Amber Tucker, Jessi Marshall, Noah Ray and Jonathan Ray.
A memorial fund has been set up at Central Valley Community Bank, and a memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in the gymnasium at Sierra High School at 33326 Lodge Road in Tollhouse.