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Raymond Lino Belli Sr.
Raymond Lino Belli Sr., a Salinas architect for more than 30 years, died Friday, July 4, 2014, following a lengthy illness. He was 88.
Ray and his partners were responsible for planning and designing more than 500 buildings in the Salinas Valley, including schools, government buildings, commercial buildings and agricultural facilities.
Born to Mary and Louis Belli in Soledad in 1926, Ray was the youngest of six siblings; Albert Belli, Jennie Handley, Louis Belli, Edith Massa and Ernest Belli. His father died in 1929, when Ray was 3. He was fortunate to have a loving family who looked out for him—he was 13 years younger than his next older sibling—and friends who did the same. He loved sports and in high school joined just about any team they offered, including baseball, basketball, football, track and boxing. He even played saxophone in the school band and acted in the senior play.
After graduating from Gonzales High School in 1945, he immediately joined the Army Air Corps. He was in basic training in Texas when the war ended.
The benefits of the GI Bill allowed Ray to attend college and he ultimately became part of the first class to complete a four-year degree in architectural engineering at Cal Poly in 1951.
While still at Cal Poly he began dating Frances Ricca, a former classmate at Gonzales High then working as a beautician in Greenfield. The couple wed on St. Patrick's Day in 1951.
After graduation, Ray was recruited to work for the Army Corps of Engineers in Anchorage, Alaska, where he became the first licensed architect in what was then a U.S. Territory. In 1954 he and Fran, and their first son, Nick, returned to Monterey County where Ray worked with several established architects, and was assigned projects ranging from a pool cabana for Bob Hope to a 100-bed addition for Marin General Hospital.
In 1961, Ray opened an office in Salinas with partner George Fox. He would go on to partner with George Kuska and Fred Christensen over the next three decades, dotting the landscape from San Ardo to Marina with buildings that reflected his own honesty and integrity while effectively serving the needs of his clients. He was fortunate to work on many projects with his close friend, contractor Bud Small.
In 1964, he and Fran settled in San Benancio with their six children, ages 10 years to 3 months, and a revolving cast of dogs, cats, pigeons, ducks, geese, peacocks, a horse, 4-H sheep and swine, pygmy goats and a donkey. Love and laughter were always abundant and there was always room for one more.
Ray and Fran were both active in whatever activities their children were involved in, from Boy Scouts to 4-H to high school music programs. In the 1960s Ray helped start the Toro Baseball Association and build the baseball field at San Benancio School. He was a coach for more than a dozen years.
He was active in the founding of the Titus Park swim and tennis club and was on the Washington Union School District board from 1970 to 1984, including a stint as president. In 1973, he and Fran were head chaperones for the Salinas High School Wind Ensemble's month-long tour of the Soviet Union. Organized during a period of détente toward the end of the Cold War, the tour, involving nearly 80 teenagers and a dozen chaperones, was one of the first opportunities for U.S. citizens to travel behind the Iron Curtain.
Other professional or civic affiliations include serving as president of the Monterey Bay Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), president of the Salinas Sunrise Toastmasters, member of the Salinas Kiwanis and Elk's Lodge.
Ray was preceded in death by his beloved wife in 1996. He was fortunate to find a second love in Arlene Azcona of Greenfield and the two spent more than a decade traveling the country and the world and enjoying the company of their many friends and family members.
Ray is survived by sons, Nick (Diane) of Salinas, Stuart (Alane) of Poughkeepsie, NY, Lino (Teri) of Salinas, Terry (Terri) of Boston, Mass.; daughters, Hope (James) Tinney of Salinas and Vanessa Belli (Douglas Adesko) of Brooklyn, NY; and 14 grandchildren: Jennifer, Greg, Amanda, Matt, Ryan, Ricca, Rex, Amelia, Francesca and Robert Belli; Riley, Katharine and Joseph Tinney; Isabel Adesko.
Visitation will be held from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Sunday July 13, 2014, at Struve and Laporte Chapel, 41 W. San Luis St., Salinas, CA 93901.
Vigil will follow at 6:00 p.m., at the Struve and Laporte Chapel.
We invite friends and family to join us in a Celebration of Life at 10:00 a.m. Monday, July 14, 2014, at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, 1 Railroad Ave., Spreckels, CA 93962.
Donations may be made to Eden Valley Care Center, a non-profit skilled nursing facility in Soledad that was designed by Belli*Christensen and where Ray received excellent care near the end of his life. Checks can be made out to the Soledad Community Healthcare District Foundation, 612 Main St., Soledad, CA 93960.
Funeral arrangements by Struve and Laporte Funeral Home. Online condolences to www.struveandlaporte.com.
Struve and Laporte Funeral Chapel
41 West San Luis Salinas, CA 93901
Published in The Salinas Californian from July 8 to July 12, 2014