Richard Owsley Bray
1936 - 2021
Richard Owsley Bray, 85 years old, died of natural causes Sept. 3, 2021 at his residence in Heber City, Utah in the company of his brother and three sons. Rich was born in New York City on Feb. 20, 1936. He was the son of Katherine McKelvey Owsley and Charles W. Bray, a professor of psychology at Princeton University. After a childhood spent in Princeton and high school in San Antonio, Rich graduated Stanford University in 1959. As a young man Rich developed a deep love of the outdoors and the western United States. As a teen he spent summers with his family at a Wyoming guest ranch. During high school he was selected for a summer internship at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Following his graduation from Stanford, he worked for the Castle Mountain Livestock Company in White Sulfur Springs, Montana. After five years of ranching, and a few rodeo bruises, he returned east to Bethesda, Maryland where he resided for 45 years. In 2009 he moved to Estes Park, Colorado full time having spent the previous 14 summers doing research in Rocky Mountain National Park. In 1980 Rich joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and remained a devoted member for the remainder of his life. He brought his love of the outdoors to a generation of youth as a leader in the Boy Scouts. A highlight of his service to his faith in more recent years was as a worker in the Fort Collins Temple, service which required the temporary sacrifice of his beloved beard. In 1994 Rich approached the National Park Service with a proposal to study the butterflies of Rocky Mountain National Park and subsequently created the Rocky Mountain Butterfly Project, which continues to this day. Over 16 years, his team identified 46 butterfly species that hadn't been known to fly in the park. In 2010 he was nominated to receive the National Park Service Hartzog Enduring Volunteer Award and in 2017 he shared the Rocky Mountain National Park's Citizen Scientist Award with the current project leader, Stephanie Mason. He logged over 18,000 volunteer hours with the park. His work helped demonstrate the migration of butterfly populations to increasingly higher altitudes in the Rocky Mountains and documented the trend to longer flying seasons, findings that shed light on the impacts of a warming climate. As "Grandpa Rich" to nine grandchildren he will be remembered most for his kind smile, an endless appetite for ice cream, and a passion for model railroading. His vast collection of Ogauge trains has outfitted two generations and three households. The entire family looked forward to his bi-annual trek from Colorado to Promontory, UT to participate in the reenactments of the driving of the "golden spike" which completed our country's first transcontinental railroad. He proudly played the role of Leland Stanford. Rich is survived by three sons: Jonathan Owsley Bray, Richard Owsley Bray Jr. and Peter William Bray, and nine grandchildren. Rich is also survived by a younger brother, Thomas Joseph Bray of Bozeman, MT. An older brother, Charles William Bray, State Department spokesman and Ambassador, died in 2006. A gathering will be held in Estes Park, Colorado at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Rocky Mountain Conservancy or the Humanitarian Fund of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Published by Estes Park Trail-Gazette on Sep. 17, 2021.
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