Last week, Chairman Greg Walden, head of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee announced the passing of long time friend and aide, Ray Baum. Ray had long been a fixture in the communications policy arena from his days as Chairman of the Oregon PUC to his latest role as Chief of Staff for the committee and was well known in Washington policy circles but more importantly, known by those he crossed paths with for being a thoughtful man, someone who always saw the bigger picture and who was simply kind and gracious – two traits that the world can never get enough of. Ray had fought a battle with a brutal cancer and Mike Romano and I last shared a meal with Ray in December where he was amazingly philosophical about his last days to come, which clearly came sooner than anticipated.
One of NTCA’s leaders in Oregon responded with the following when I had shared the sad news with folks who had known Ray from his state days…
“Ray was a tremendous and humble person who was dedicated in every way to seeing the right thing through. He will be deeply missed, especially in Oregon, for all of his support and the integrity he brought all the time.” High words of praise.
I had the honor of sharing some thoughts with Ray’s family and thought I would share here as well because his legacy is one that should be remembered.
To Ray’s family,
I first met Ray many years ago when he was still serving as the Chairman of the Oregon PUC and I was running the federal office for Qwest. Our paths crossed at a resort in rural Oregon, somewhere along a beautiful river where pine trees and moss grew equally. Sitting in the hotel lobby, Ray was “holding court” with all of the communications providers in Oregon and Washington state and I was struck from my introduction to him how he treated everyone who approached him equally – with kindness, respect and genuine interest in their story.
When Ray moved out to Washington DC to support his good friend Congressman Walden, it was always clear that he did it for love of the policy and love of his friendship. He clearly missed his friends and family out west and talked of them often. One snowy evening years ago, Ray and his lovely wife Kristine, my husband and myself were stuck in the corner of a small DC restaurant at an industry celebration and even my cynical husband walked away from the evening noting the humble nature of a man who was held in such high regard in policy circles – and how his loving spouse was able to keep him grounded and reminded that their hearts still were out west (and not to get too comfy with this whole DC gig!).
When Ray first became ill, the Jewish mother in me took over and I was convinced that my chicken soup might work some magic so when we would meet for lunch, I would bring a frozen tub along and pass it over. Ray would laugh and take the defrosting tub – if for no other reason than to humor me and would always send along a thank you note saying that the soup and cookies were just what the doctor ordered. If only that Jewish penicillin could have cured all ills.
I last broke bread with Ray in December and I marveled at his transparency on what the future held for him and how he was rushing to get things in order for Kristine and his family. I shared with him how very much I admired his faith, his courage and his grace. He was truly a role model for me in thinking about how to live each day that is precious and how to make an effort to find the things that are important to you – and embrace them.
I am proud to have known Ray Baum and I will always think of him with a smile in my heart.