MUSEKGON, Mich. — For Sim Ray, Smith-Ryerson Park on Sumner Avenue is like a second home. He’s worked there as a groundskeeper for the last 28 years, cutting the grass and cleaning the community center. However, his favorite times have been when he’s helped people.
“To me, it’s a great honor,” Sim said during an interview with FOX 17 on Friday. “I like the people and I’ve met a lot of people here. I’ve helped a lot of people that wanted to do things for their families and their kids and they weren’t able to. I worked them in and I let them.”
Sim always accommodated people. He said he has a passion for helping others. It’s the way he was raised.
“I just want people to respect this building and this park because we’re getting it known that people come in saying this is the most beautifulest [sic] park in Muskegon,” Ray said. “So, they tell me I’ll retire. I’ll probably never retire. I bet I’ll be off the payroll but you’ll find me around here picking up paper or picking up something. I love it.”
Because of his love and dedication to the park, on Tuesday Jan. 11, the city of Muskegon awarded him.
“So, Mr. Ray, in recognition of your many years in maintaining our parks and community buildings with excellence, we are proud to present you with a key to the Sims [sic] Ray Community Building at Smith-Ryerson Park,” said an official with the city of Muskegon.
Everyone clapped, including Albirda, his wife of 72 years, and their 10 kids, over 20 grandkids, great-grandkids and great-great-grandkids.
Sim’s daughter Linda recorded the event on her cell phone.
“Before I say anything, I’m a big crybaby. My family, would you please stand?” Ray said. The family stood up. “I just want to say thanks to the City of Muskegon Parks and Recreation for allowing me this chance. I have enjoyed working for Muskegon.”
Albirda was so proud, she said, and shocked.
“It was surprise to me,” she said. “I really didn’t know what to do. I was happy.”
The Rays met and fell in love in Arkansas. They moved to Michigan in the 1950s, first residing on the east side of the state. Then they moved to Muskegon where they settled and raised their 10 kids, instilling in them the values of love, hard work and compassion.
Ray said his compassion comes from his parents.
“Mostly go back to when I was a kid and the way that I was brought up. I was a kid that didn’t have a mother. My mother died when I was 2 years old,” Ray said. “But the mom and dad that raised me, raised me to respect people, give them honor.”
And to always offer a helping hand.
He’s grateful that not only he continues to do that but his children do too. That’s the ultimate award.
“They call me a big crybaby and I’m fighting back tears right now,” Ray said. “It’s one thing that I would only do that when I’m happy. And, right now I’m happy.”