I have been employed for most of my adult life. My longest employment lasted 17 years and took place at the Milwaukee County jail where I was a Property Clerk. I had several responsibilities. The most important one was receiving inmates' property upon arrest and returning it to them upon their release.

I joined GAC in 2009. At first I worried a lot about how I would fit in, but people were so friendly and easy to be with. Responding to the openness and warmth that I found at GAC, I found myself making friends quickly and easily.

Since I was working full-time, I could not get down to GAC as often as I liked, but I did enjoy the weekends and the weekdays when I had a day off and GAC was open.

In 2012, I started to have big problems with sleep and this was starting to have a big impact on how I did my job. I received several written warnings about my work performance and I feared being fired.

I told Rachel Forman about this and she drafted a letter explaining the situation to David Clarke, who was then the Milwaukee County Sheriff. He referred the matter to someone at the jail who showed me understanding that I had not received before. Because of this, I was able to resume my responsibilities and performed them well for another 3 years.

I retired in 2015 with my full pension and on good terms with my employer.

Since I wasn't working, I really needed a place to fit in, to be with people. I was able to get involved in my hobbies--hunting, fishing, photography, physical exercise. Retirement also gave me the capacity to come to GAC whenever I wanted to.

I had to figure where at GAC I would fit in best. I discovered that I loved working in the Culinary Unit where I cut fruits and vegetables, portioned out the meals, washed dishes, was often the GAC "grill master" when we had our outdoor barbeques at GAC, and sold lunch tickets as the Culinary cashier. I also ordered items and picked up food from Feeding America and stored the food in the appropriate place--the freezer, the fridge, or on a shelf.

All this helped my self-esteem, and makes me feel wanted and appreciated.

I have had challenges in the past year. In December, I had two tumors removed from my kidneys. In January I caught Covid, which kept me in bed at home and also in the hospital for 4 days of observation. There, they addressed the pain, put me on an IV, and gave me an infusion.

When I was released, I still had some symptoms and had to quarantine for 2 weeks and got a lot of help from others. Pam Weisser stayed in touch by phone and delivered food from GAC. (My sisters also cooked for me). I got a beautiful "reach out" card from my GAC friends. My neighbors took care of the snow removal that was my responsibility.

The first place I came to when I was able to leave the house was GAC. It felt as if I were coming home. Quarantine was tough; limiting my contact with people to phone calls. I'm a guy who likes to BE with people. Because most of my social life is at the club, I was elated to return.

The people I care most about are my family and GAC. I would like to come to GAC everyday, but I can't because we have to abide by pandemic space restrictions at GAC and we have to let people know when we are planning to attend, so that we don't violate these restrictions. I want to give other members a chance to be there. I'm really glad that our daily GAC Lunchtime Walking Group is still functioning, even though now we have temporarily moved to the mall because of the cold.

GAC is a big part of my life and always will be. I do hope to see an end to this pandemic, do some traveling and take a lot more photos.
Above: Ray enjoying a card game with his friends during Weekend Rec Program hours back in August 2019. (l-r) Michael Anderson, Paul Homes, Glen Satterland and Dominic Corl.
Above: Ray posing for a selfie in January 2020 with the women of the Retail & Business Management Unit; (from front-back) Jenny Teuscher, Maria Elena Lepesquer, Katie Donner, and Grenesha Reed.
Above: (l-r) Paul Holmes, Shelby Manuel, and Ray working in the Water St. Boutique stock room, September 2019.
Above: Rain, shine or snow...nothing stops Ray and his friends from going on the daily lunch hour wellness walk in the downtown area around GAC, December 2019. (l-r) Joe Schultz, Mic Treichel, Dominic Corl, Amer Aris, Michael Anderson, and Nate Liddel.
Right: Ray works his magic on Milwaukee's brats for a GAC lunch.
Above: Ray with Symone Evans and Walter Heard making delicious meatballs in the Culinary Unit, February 2020.

The Colleagues of Grand Avenue Club