I received news of Ray Loewer’s passing last week with mixed emotions: Selfishly, I regretted parting with a gentleman farmer whose acquaintance I treasured for more than 30 years; happily, on the other hand, I know Ray’s release from his earthly travail freed him from the infirmity of illness in exchange for the eternal reward that his faith had sealed. As a result of the latter, his memorial service Saturday morning provided a time of celebration for a life well-lived.
As a student of letters and the discipline of linguistics, one of Ray’s traits that always fascinated me was his acumen for language. The son of German immigrants, his family’s first language was German. He learned enough English to begin first grade in the English-speaking public schools, and then picked up conversational skills in Cajun French from the Creole/Cajun farm hands’ kids who helped out on his father’s farm. A truly fascinating case study, he picked up language skills without formal training in any of them.
In the respect of Ray’s language skills, then, I recall a French aphorism that Le Conseil Pour le Development de Francais en Louisiane (CODOFIL) used to circulate in the 1970’s: “Un homme qui parle deux langes vaut deux hommes.” (A man who speaks two languages is worth two men.”) Applied to Ray, then, the trilingualist, “A man who speaks three languages is worth three men.”
What a fitting way to regard Ray! Beginning with imposing stature, Ray’s physical presence was striking–There was enough of “him” to make several! But greater than the largesse of physical stature, what truly distinguished Ray from ordinary men was the largesse of his heart. The enormity of the crowd gathered for his service, in fact, bore witness to this man’s remarkable gift for living and loving with homespun sincerity. Never flashy, never patronizing, but ever earnest and compelling, Ray practiced a gregarious gift for making others feel accepted, loved, and appreciated. He was a jewel of a man, one whose character will not be easily replaced, and one whom I, along with hundreds of others, will sorely miss.
God bless the memory of Ray Loewer! Our earthly society is diminished by his passing, as heaven is increased by his going. We long to see him again in the realm to come.