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“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” – Oscar Wilde
Many people met Ray Karrer and almost everyone of them were changed for the better. In the 78 years he lived, he was constantly running and going in hopes to make life better for someone else. Being involved with numerous community projects, church ministries and school functions, Ray reached out and touched a lot of people.
Ray moved to Paris in the early 70′s and began teaching theatre at PJC. He had previously taught in Odessa before moving to the area. After a few years, he hired John Wright to start working with him to help build sets. John and Ray worked together at PJC until Ray retired in 2003. During the 27 years they worked together, they build a friendship that would carry on outside of work. During their time at PJC, they would travel and take students to different competitions or different trips. Whether it was to Florida, Boston, New York, California or any other place between the students loved traveling with Ray and going places.
“We figured it up one time and, I bet, with all of our trips together we probably travelled over a half-a-million miles,” John Wright told eParisExtra.
Ray influenced so many students lives as well. Mr. Wright said there was hardly a place you would travel where someone didn’t know Ray Karrer.
“We would be walking down the streets of New York City,” John says, “and you would hear someone yell out, ‘Ray Karrer’. You would turn around and see a student living in New York that used to be a student of Rays.”
This is the type of person Ray was. He was well known and well respected; not only in Paris but all over Texas. One year when they were traveling through Austin, he wanted to stop and tour the capital with the students. Ray talked about how maybe they could see Governor Ann Richards. Thinking they weren’t going to get to talk to her, they toured the capital anyway. As they were coming down a set of stairs, the Governor was standing below and looked up. She called out, “Ray Karrer. From Paris, Texas.” Nobody, including John Wright, could believe he actually knew the Governor.
Mr. Wright recalls the numerous students that Ray personally went and bailed out of jail with his own money. There were holidays, while teaching, in which students from different countries couldn’t go home. Ray and his wife would open up their home and invite these students to have a place to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Ray was constantly giving of himself and his time. He was always doing something and had his hand in something always. Ray was influential in getting the Paris Community Theatre started in Paris during the 1970′s. Before they moved into the location they are in now, PCT would hold their plays on the stage of PJC. Ray served on the board of directors for many years and was president several times.
Jeff Higgins, the current president of PCT said, “PCT lost not only a great actor and director this week, but also a friend. Our hearts are heavy with the passing of Ray Karrer. His love and dedication towards the theatre will surely be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this difficult time.”
Former PCT president April Inmon added, “Ray Karrer- it was an adventure to know him! I loved working with Ray, from the PCT board to walking (crawling) out on the catwalk to adjust lights. He had the patience of a great teacher and was always eager to share his knowledge. A man of many talents, he will be greatly missed.”
I also had the honor of serving on the board of directors with Ray Karrer. He was very influential to me as I tried to navigate my way around the theatre.
Not only did Ray help start PCT, but he was very active with his church. Ray was involved with prison ministry every week at the Bonham prison. He was a part of the Calvary Methodist choir and he was influential in starting the United Campus Ministries – a ministry that feeds around 100 people for free three days a week. This is the type of person Ray was. Ray was always giving of himself and wanted to make sure others were taken care of before himself.
It’s always hard to say goodbye to a friend and loved one. Ray has touched thousands of lives in some form or fashion. Although it’s not easy and it seems hard at times, life goes on. We will never forget the man that made us laugh, and taught us that theatre is something to be appreciated. He taught so many that perhaps a third or fourth chance is necessary to teach a lesson. He taught me, that no matter what happens, the show must go on. So with that, as we turn our heads towards the next phase of life without a man that has meant so much. We remember that no matter what we are doing, Ray is somewhere in the audience cheering us on and applauding at our every move. Thanks for the memories Ray.