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Adventure, truly, is the spice of Hazel Ray’s life.
Ray, who was born and raised in Minnesota, lived in Hawaii and California while her late husband, John T. Ray, who originally was from Carroll County, served in the U.S. Navy. The couple moved to Carrollton after John Ray retired.
“This was his home, and I made it mine,” she said.
Her entrepreneurial adventures began with a craft shop, where she and a partner sold their handmade items and taught classes in crafts and in art. When the Rays moved to the county, she closed the business but soon became bored. So, she studied for her real estate license and worked as an agent for Bob Green in Milton, Ky. Two years later, she completed her certification to become a broker and ran her own real estate office in Carrollton for 26 years.
After that, she bought the former “Be Leah” shop – a clothing store located at the corner of Fifth and Main streets in downtown Carrollton (which most recently was a tattoo parlor). She later changed the name of the store to the “Cornercopia,” and went back to selling handmade crafts, antiques and ceramics.
In 2002, she decided to retire and sold the business and the building.
During an interview Friday in her Sixth Street home, Ray talked mostly about her love of travel. Before his death in 1990, she and her husband had visited every state in the United States, except Alaska.
That one, she said, is on her “Bucket List,” and she’s saving money to go there as soon as she can.
Since she was widowed, though, she has traveled to Mexico and Canada, and won a trip to Jamaica, taking her friend Pat Perkins with her. “If you know Pat, then you know we had a ball,” she said.
She has toured through Europe, visited friends in New Zealand and just last October took a 10-day tour of Ireland with friends Sam Burgess and Mary Ann Mitchell.
Ray said she has learned important lessons from all of her trips. For instance, the first trip to Europe, which she took with her former boss, Bob Green, and his wife, was a 3,000-mile bus tour from London to Venice, Italy, traveling through France, Holland, Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
On such a trip, she said, “you don’t have enough time to enjoy each place, [and I learned] never to do that again.”But, she made many new friends from all over the world. Two of those friends invited her later to visit them in New Zealand. On that trip, she said she learned to break air travel into a couple of days. Not knowing better at the time, Ray said she flew to Los Angeles and then immediately boarded her flight to New Zealand – logging 27 total hours in the air. Next time – and she is hoping there will be another trip to New Zealand – she said she will fly to L.A., stay overnight and fly out the next day.
She and friend Myrna Holloway also traveled together to visit an online friend in Sweden. That trip began in Amsterdam, where the two women visited the Anne Frank Museum and other museums and toured the town on foot in the rain under umbrellas purchased there. Once in Sweden, their friend took them anywhere they wanted to go, which included a trip to Stockholm and into Norway.
In Sweden, she observed, “the young people don’t have cars. They roller skate or take the bus to all the places they want to go. They are very independent.”
Though she swore she’d never take a bus tour again, the Ireland trip with Burgess and Mitchell turned out to be one of her favorites. “Of all the countries I’ve been to, Ireland was the most beautiful,” Ray said, adding it might be because of her Irish heritage. When she returned home, she said she got online and started tracing her roots. She discovered her family tree goes back to Limerick in the Republic of Ireland.
It’s a trip she plans to make again, but next time, she said, she will fly to Dublin and then take a train and stay for a full week in one of the small towns they visited in October.
When not traveling, Ray is an avid reader and fills her life with her artwork. Mostly, she crochets, knits and sews, designing all of her own patterns. She and her daughter have made dozens of quilts, which she sends out of state to a group of church women to finish for her. A bad back keeps her from doing the quilting herself, she said.
Art has always been her passion. “When I was a kid, I drew. I always wanted to be an art teacher, but I never had the chance to go to school for it.”
Much of her time, these days, is devoted to caring for her great-grandson, Devin Scott Newsome, who is 3-and-a-half. “What a joy he is,” she said.
“When I’m not working at home, I play dominos with my friends, Margaret Dailey and Wayne and Diane Young,” she said. “Once in awhile, I even cook, and I love to be adventurous with my recipes. Just ask any of my children.”
“My doctor once told me I was unique,” she added. “I don’t know if I am or not, but I loved him for saying that.”
Area residents will have the opportunity to get a “taste” of Ray’s Ireland trip. She and Burgess will have photos from their adventure on display in August at the Carroll County Public Library. A “Meet the Artist” reception is planned for Aug. 8 in the community room.