Ray William Heer, 88, died on November 3, 2015 in Pasadena, CA. His three daughters were at his side. Ray was born in American Falls, Idaho, September 11, 1927, the son of John and Caroline Bartholoma Heer. He grew up in Aberdeen where his father was the editor of The Aberdeen Times; Ray returned “home” to Aberdeen as often as possible and he read the Aberdeen Times for the rest of his life. Ray has compiled two books on file in the Aberdeen Library; Snipe Hunting, a collection of his father’s writings and The Aberdeen Music Hall of Fame. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the College of Idaho in Caldwell, in 1950. A summer in the Washington, D.C. Student Citizenship Seminar confirmed his call into the Presbyterian ministry, instead of working in the government State Department.
Ray received a Bachelor of Divinity (1953) and a Master of Arts in sacred music in voice, organ, piano, and conducting (1954) from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. There he met Clara Marie Bickford, daughter of the Rev. and Mrs. John Bickford, missionaries to China and Africa. They married May 22, 1955 in the Highland Park Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles. Together they raised three daughters; Carol, Gloria and Grace. In 1973, Ray received a Doctor of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary.
As a Presbyterian minister, Rev. Heer was both a pioneer and an administrator. Throughout his career, he served in four churches, a university, and five Christian camp grounds. Ray was the first to serve in the double capacity as Pastor of the Westminster Presbyterian Church and Executive Director of the Bell Gardens Community Center. The Community Center’s work focused upon providing services and community organization for the poor and low income immigrants to the Los Angeles area from the Dust Bowl. He was also the organizing executive of the new Presbytery of Los Ranchos, overseeing the operations of 50 Presbyterian churches.
After 43 years of ministry Ray and Clara moved to Monte Vista Grove Homes in Pasadena, CA. Active in Pasadena Presbyterian Church they developed an International Student ministry. He has served on many boards, agencies and service clubs. For five years, Ray was the president of the Southern California chapter of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia.
Ray and Clara were privileged to live in New York City one summer and with the family to travel two times to Clara’s birthplace in China. They also visited Clara’s sister Esther and John Shackelford in Guatemala and celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary on a cruise to Alaska. Ray was a member of the Cabrillo Slavonic Chorus which toured the Soviet Union and other choirs that toured Europe. He received many honors during his life including a Distinguished Alumni Life Achievement Award from the College of Idaho, and the Dove Award for outstanding service to Camps and Conferences. He was listed in several editions of Who’s Who.
In addition to their own daughters, Ray and Clara nurtured 33 foster children including international students, starving Shakespearean actors, and others needing a home. A musical family, the Heers were well known for their hospitality and musical parties.
In October 2015, Ray was diagnosed with lymphoma, and experienced a rapid decline. Ray passed away on November 3, with his three daughters at his side. A recording of his beautiful piano music carried him away to rejoin Clara, his beloved wife of 60 years, who had gone just 10 weeks before.
Ray willed his body to the University of California Irvine School of Medicine Willed Body Program. After research, his cremains will be scattered in the Pacific Ocean, along with Clara’s.
Ray is survived by his daughters Grace Lynne Heer of Santa Ana; Carol Beth (Kevin) Holsinger of Menlo Park; Gloria (James) Lane of Mentor, Ohio; grandchildren Alexander David Lane and Alyssa Marie Lane; brothers Leo (Valene) Heer of Rexburg, Idaho; and Jim (Marcia) Heer of Redmond, WA. He was “Uncle Ray” to 18 nieces and nephews and their spouses and children, and he leaves a host of dearly loved friends.
A memorial service for Ray Heer will be held on Saturday, November 21, 2015 at the Pasadena Presbyterian Church, in Pasadena, CA, at 1:30 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Monte Vista Grove Quality of Life Fund, 2889 San Pasqual, Pasadena, CA, 91107.
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