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804 North Dustin Avenue
Farmington, NM 87401
(505) 326-3671
Celebration of Life
Friday, Nov. 29, 2019
11:00 AM
Riverstone Church
808 N. Monterey
Farmington, NM
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Raymond E. Horvath


1928 - 2019
Raymond E. Horvath Obituary
Raymond E Horvath

Farmington - Ray Horvath was driven by the desire to make life better for those around him. Yet his reputation and his honor did not rest on that desire alone, but rather upon the meticulous planning, hard work and attention to detail that made those desires a reality. He didn't just talk about making a difference in people's lives, he made a difference in his profession, the community, neighborhood, and family.

Raymond Eugene Horvath was born on January 23, 1928 in Gallup, New Mexico to John G. Horvath Sr. and Lillie Mae Cates. He had four sisters and three brothers. To most people he was known as Ray, Raymond, Mr. Horvath or Gene to family members or close friends.

The Horvath family was part of a strong international community in Gallup that bonded together during the Great Depression. Ray talked about how his family stood in welfare lines and how a local restaurant owner often shared leftover food with that community. Over the years Ray stayed in contact with members of that community.

The family moved to Farmington and lived on Schofield Lane. As a teenager Ray and his brothers worked in the fields to provide income for the family. During certain times of the year, Ray missed more school than he attended. As a result, some of his teachers were both punitive and accepting as they would not give him anything more than a C, no matter how well he performed. These experiences shaped Ray's philosophy as a person and educator.

Times were tough, but the Horvath family made the best of the situation. Ray used to say, "When we were growing up, Christmas was no different than any other day. If we got an orange it was really special." The first time he really celebrated Christmas was after marrying Nellie. As a result of his experiences, Christmas and spending time with family were always special.

After graduation from high school, Ray aspired to attend Colorado State University to become a veterinarian. Instead he was drafted into the Army. Upon his honorable discharge, he returned home and enrolled at the Old Fort Lewis College where he worked in the garage, drove the Mighty Moo (the school activity bus), and most importantly he met Nellie and married her in December 1950. Their first son, Gary, was born in 1951 followed by Jan in 1954 and Dale in 1957. Though Ray never had a chance to achieve his dream at CSU, he could live vicariously through his granddaughter Ana, who is studying biology there.

Ray began his education career in 1952 teaching science at McKinley Elementary. This was followed by stints as assistant principal at Farmington High and Hermosa Junior High. He was also principal at Apache, Country Club, and Ruth N. Bond Elementary in Kirtland. In each of these settings he motivated and inspired students and teachers to make the best of their education experience. He was always thankful for those students who stayed in touch with him throughout the years.

Ray retired as an educator in 1991, dedicating nearly 40 years of service to the belief that "children are worth the effort". About half that time was spent as principal of Ruth N. Bond Elementary, for which he received national recognition. In 1987, the National PTA, at their Dallas meeting, selected him as the National PTA Elementary Principal.

The following year, 1988, he was selected by the United States Department of Education as a National Distinguished Principal, one of only 59 principals in the nation so recognized. Ray was decades ahead of his time with his "humanistic" approach to learning. He felt the school should provide personalized education to meet each student's needs. He valued their culture while creating an environment where students were taught that they have a responsibility to the larger world. In discussing the award with the Farmington Daily Times, Ray acknowledged that it was a result of never-ending hard work over an extended period. He had drawn up a set of long-range plans and one by one, the community, students, and teachers worked together to realize those plans.

Finally, in 1992, he was elected to the National Education Association New Mexico Hall of Fame.

Ray's unwavering commitment to learning was seen in his support of science fairs in the area. He hosted them, encouraged students to participate in them, and served as a judge. Ray was an advocate of STEM learning, before the acronym existed.

Ray's impact on San Juan County extended beyond education. He was a member of the Farmington Civitans and Lower Valley Lions Club. Ray was on the initial boards of Farmington Parks and Recreation and Childhaven. He was on the board for Boys and Girls Club of Farmington. Ray was a member of the Masonic Lodge and served as an usher at the First United Methodist Church in Farmington for many years. In each of these roles, he was always a servant leader whether he was working for improvements in facilities or processes, raising money for scholarships, organizing benefits for individuals in need, completing everyday tasks, or providing drive and motivation to help others. These and many other efforts resulted in Ray being named Farmington Chamber of Commerce's Citizen of the Year in 2006.

In 2008, Ray was inducted into the San Juan Regional Medical Center Hall of Fame for his service on the hospital's board of directors and the board of the San Juan Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. In these capacities, he was always a supporter of medical staff personnel, both clinical and non-clinical. While on the board of the hospital, he worked hard to improve benefits for all employees and open lines of communication. He wanted every employee to have a sound, secure retirement plan to reward years of hard work, and he worked to make that happen. And of course, Ray had a belief in the value of education for everyone, so he advocated continuing education for hospital employees, and supported increasing the amount of money for scholarships to students entering medical fields.

Ray was a wonderful friend and neighbor. When they needed help, he extended a willing hand. He had great pride in his vegetable garden and enjoyed sharing it with others. Fortunately, the neighbors didn't lock the doors and hide behind the couch when he arrived with a fresh batch of tomatoes and zucchinis.

He loved Nellie and his family and was exceptionally proud of them. In fact, he drove the activity bus at the high school, and got paid $5 for doing it, so his children could take piano lessons. In every thing he did, Ray demonstrated the importance of having a strong work ethic. A case in point was a summer project to dig a partial basement under the house. His calculations showed that it would be necessary to remove 20 wheelbarrows of dirt a day to complete the project by the end of summer. The project was completed earlier than projected because the wheelbarrows were loaded to the max and the family removed at least 20 wheelbarrows of dirt on a slow day.

Growing up, Gary, Jan, and Dale assumed that every father was like their daddy, a consummate professional, an altruistic neighbor and member of the community, and the leader of the family. Admittedly they are biased, but as they have grown older, they have gained a greater appreciation for his vision and work as an educator and the way he touched so many lives. They have learned the importance of being honest, having a good work ethic, speaking up for what you believe in, and giving back to your community. Finally, they have learned the role that parents play in having a strong family.

As mentioned previously, Ray literally and figuratively, planted trees at Ruth N. Bond Elementary school. He had vision and a purpose for bringing the community of teachers, parents, and students together to turn a sandy hilltop into an area with foliage. He planted trees to teach biology, botany, and stewardship, but more subtly he planted trees to build community. Everywhere he went, in all his years of hard work, he carried the same idea that we all need to work hard together, and that we must care for one another, to build something worthwhile. These are the most important trees he planted.

The family is planning a celebration of Ray's life on November 29th in Farmington. The event is open to the public. For additional details contact Jan Valentine at [email protected] or 505 861-6112.
Published in Farmington Daily Times from Nov. 7 to Nov. 10, 2019
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