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yuccaneers

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: March 25, 2007, 09:45:02 AM

IRVING, Texas - They came in all shapes and sizes, some in upscale SUV's and some in pickups and beaters.

They came in all colors, some in their Sunday best and others in their best game-day casual.

They were of all ages, some old enough to have squeaky wheels and some young enough to whine without repercussion.

Just people, your everyday people feeling the need to not only pay their respects, but to smile one more time at Texas Stadium thanks to the memories of the man who generated generations of smiles world wide.

They came because of Ray.

Wilford "Ray" Jones.

Crazy Ray.

Nearly 300 strong found their way to the Stadium Club of Texas Stadium Saturday morning for what was called a memorial for Ray Jones, whose ailing body ran out of life a week ago Saturday. They said this was going to be a memorial service, yet the hour turned into a fitting celebration of this man's 76-year-old life (Jan. 22, 1931-March 17, 2007), a life long enough to touch so many far and wide.

"He loved people of all ages," said the former voice of Texas Stadium Murphy Martin, "from tiny tots to the people who owned the suites in the upper decks . . . and he loved his Cowboys."

There were family members there, including his wife of 53 years Mattie. Friends. Former Cowboys players such as Calvin Hill and Robert Newhouse. Cowboys officials, including Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and wife Gene. Pat Summerall was there, as was John Wooten, the former Cleveland Browns offensive lineman who led the way for Jim Brown during his heyday and went on to become a Cowboys scout and director of pro personnel.

And then there were just people - Cowboys fans - like the guy feeling the necessity to wear his old white Cowboys T-shirt still sporting the signature Crazy Ray gave him years ago.

For as Newhouse proclaimed, "This is fan day," and certainly no one needed to point out Crazy Ray was the team's biggest fan, having begun attending games some 43 years ago back in the Cotton Bowl when he first became known as "Whistling Ray," that vendor who would make those high-pitched whistling shrills while tossing bags of peanuts behind his backs to customers who would become a budding fan base.

The morning was punctuated by the appearance of Zema Williams. You might not know him as Zema Williams, but you would recognize his unmistakable Indian head dress and red outfit as the man who became sort of Ray's counterpart, the Washington Redskins mascot.

Few probably knew because of their theatrical sideline tussles during those Cowboys-Redskins games they were fast friends, Crazy Ray and Chief Zee. But they were, the Chief telling of his first trip back in the old days to a Cowboys-Redskins game at the invitation of Ray that he initially declined.

"No Ray," Zema first said, "I ain't coming down to Texas with those people riding around with shotguns."

But he came, and told the story of how Ray arranged for an airport roundup, men dressed up carrying toy guns to apprehend Chief Zee in the terminal and take him directly to Texas Stadium. Zema never checked into a hotel, he said, because at the insistence of Ray and Mattie he spent the weekend at the Jones house.

"Ray always told me, 'Look out for the children because that's the people of tomorrow,'" Zema recalled.

And at that, Chief Zee removed his coveted headdress, and as was their custom he said for the losing mascot after games, he put on a Cowboys cap in tribute to his buddy and screamed in the best rendition of Crazy Ray, "Cowboys!"

He received a standing ovation. Only in the name of Crazy Ray could a Redskin be truly cheered at Texas Stadium.

Hill recalled his 1969 arrival with the Cowboys, and at the time, as he pointed out, there was no Texas Stadium, no Cowboys Cheerleaders and no Super Bowl trophies.

"But there was a Crazy Ray," Hill said of the man who made such an impression on millions, especially children with his magic tricks and uncanny ability to turn blown up balloons into laughable creatures.

And the former Cowboys running back and current player development consultant was living proof of those impressions, recalling the time he and his wife brought young son Grant to see him play for the first time, all dressed up in daddy's No. 35 Cowboys jersey.

So on the way home after the game, Calvin asked his wife Janet how'd Grant enjoy the game, and she said somewhat hollowly, "He had a good time."

Well that wasn't the answer daddy was looking for after such a good game, and Calvin said he tried again a few minutes later: "What he think when I scored the touchdown?"

"Calvin, I hate to burst your bubble," she said apologetically, "but all he cared about was the vendors and Crazy Ray."

Ray didn't, though, just make an impression on people, and especially all those little kids he would visit at local area children hospitals or the elderly whiling away the days in retirement centers, but he made an impression on the nation's biggest game played in the most prominent of leagues.

The NFL.

Jerry Jones has said many times he does not own the Dallas Cowboys, but that's he's "just getting a chance to carry the ball, to husband it a while." But he went as far to point out, "I'm here to talk about owner Ray Jones, and boy did he weigh in on the tradition of the Dallas Cowboys."

He recalled a conversation he had with former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, having discussed the league's tradition and business, and Jones said of Crazy Ray, "We are celebrating an icon . . . the purest amateur as the NFL has ever seen. He was here as a fan."

Or as neighbor and friend Wayne Walker pointed out, "(Ray) wasn't for pay."

And so the morning went, nearly an hour of smiles and laughs, interrupted with a few tears, shed not for Ray, but shed by these people of all walks of life for themselves, knowing they had lost a friend, even if they only knew Wilford Jones as merely Crazy Ray. For they knew he had made them smile.

And he did so one last time, thanks to the video tribute that played not only on the many TV monitors inside the Stadium Club, but also on the video boards in an empty Texas Stadium - Ray's smile lighting up the screen as everyone was given a stroll through memory lane thanks to Cowboys TV producer Roxanne Medina.

Five decades of Cowboys football, from black and white shots at the Cotton Bowl to the color of Super Bowls and Texas Stadium, Ray Jones was there for it all, and as the pictures bounced from year to year, the strong voice of Louis Armstrong sang Wonderful World in the background:

The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky

Are also on the faces of people going by

I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do

They're really saying I love you

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow

They'll learn much more than I'll ever know

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

Yes I think to myself, what a wonderful world

Yes, and one made just a little more wonderful by a man affectionately known as Crazy Ray.

In Football, RESPECT is never given freely by your opponent. It must be TAKEN from them...VIOLENTLY

Great players cost a lot of money but help win games. High-priced players - a byproduct of poorly run front offices with bad scouting departments - only cost a lot of money.
"Our greatest glory consists not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."
Oliver Goldsmith

MarleyMon81

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#1 : March 25, 2007, 09:49:08 AM

Yeah you'd always see him in old NFL Films videos about the Cowboys and then you'd still see him supporting them in more recent footage.  A fan true and true to his team.


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