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Remembering Ray

Headline – On Saturday 28th July 2007, Ray Kenny lost his brave fight against leukaemia at the age of 63.  His funeral was held at St. Michael and All Angels Church, Bampton on Friday 3rd August 2007.

Raymon Francis Kenny


Remembering Ray

On Saturday 28th July 2007, Ray Kenny lost his brave fight against leukaemia at the age of 63. He was with his wife Isabelle and his children Lucy and Tim when he passed away and knew that he was to become a grandfather. Ella Rae was born on 22/02/08.

His funeral was held at St. Michael and All Angels Church, Bampton on Friday 3rd August 2007. It was the largest funeral ever conducted by Reverend John Stone and the collection raised a staggering £1,700 pounds for the Exeter Leukaemia fund. (If you would like to donate money please call (01392) 493344 or email enquire@exeterleukaemiafund.org.uk).

Remembering Ray

Ray’s Life

Ray was born in Dublin on 27th May 1944. He was proud to be an Irishman & kept his Irish passport. He was the middle of five brothers. All the boys tell how, when their mother was ill, they were kept at home to do the cooking, but it seems likely that Ray was the one who developed the cooking bug from this time. The family ran a grocer’s shop. Ray learned his early schooling in Gaelic, but by the time he went to Westland Row secondary school the family fortunes were declining.

He won a scholarship to Cathal Brua Street, a catering college, & was taught by the legendary Michael Ganly. Ray always forged long-standing friendships, & when the family was forced to leave Dublin, he could have stayed with his dear friend Eugene McGovern, but felt he had to support his family. This was his first period at the Dorchester, facilitated by Michael Ganly.

Remembering Ray

In 1968, when Ray came back from Switzerland, a friend suggested he went down to stay in Exeter with his parents, an event which had life-long consequences, for he met Isabelle Frost.

When Ray and Isabelle met it was love at first sight for both of them. By the second day he was calling her parents Mum & Dad! She was sixteen & still at school; he was twenty- four. He proposed on January 1st 1970, she finished her A-levels, went to Royal Holloway College & they got married on 28th August,1971 in the Catholic church in Roehampton.

As her father had died the previous year, she was given away by her brother. Next year they would have been together for forty years, & this month they were to have celebrated their thirty-sixth wedding anniversary. Isabelle’s mother adored him, partly because she too was Irish, & loved to fight with him, in true Irish fashion. (In her latter years she came to live at Castle Grove).

As always in their life together, Ray & Isabelle wanted to spend as much time together as possible, so Ray had spent the previous year at Garnett College, training to be a further education lecturer. Subsequently, when he also gained a degree, he was so proud to be one of the first graduate chef lecturers without a single O-level to his name, & having left school at fourteen! He also spoke Swiss German like a native, some kitchen French & Italian, & later learned Spanish.

Ray was always a great provider for his family, so, as well as working at Ealing Hotel school, he did Jewish outside catering jobs in order to support Isabelle through university.

In 1978, Ray and Isabelle moved to Wales & Ray began lecturing in the Hotel & Institutional Management Department at Cardiff University. Ray inspired students from both his eras of teaching & many are still in touch today. He adored imparting his skills which he had gained from his own mentors. He also loved the Dorchester Old Boys reunions, when all the familiar anecdotes were rehearsed. Recently he also went to an Ealing Hotel School reunion.

Isabelle studied for an MA, & they decided to have a family. His adored little girl, Lucy, was born in 1980, & from the start, he was an excellent father. Tim followed in 1982. There is a lovely story that, when he was told in the waiting room, that he had a boy, he said, “No, that can’t be me, we’re having a girl!”

Remembering Ray

In 1984, a very special event occurred. Bampton & Castle Grove came into their lives, the place which they both loved, & never wanted to leave, & Ray has achieved his dream of being laid to rest in the churchyard, sadly far sooner than we had ever expected. They had decided that they wanted to spend every working day together, &, not expecting to be taken seriously, Ray applied for early retirement, aged thirty-nine. He was given a golden handshake on the condition that he went back one day a week. At this point, they put everything in storage, and went off to Devon with all their worldly necessities in the car (including the dog!) Starting a retirement home with a hotel ethos was the aim, so that the family could spend as much time together as possible & Ray could use his culinary skills & care for people.

From the beginning, Bampton welcomed the Kenny family. The children went to school, & more friendships were forged. The early days were frantically busy, combining cooking, decorating, paperwork, gardening & family life.

Each development was Ray’s brainchild, he adored building projects. One of the saddest things is that he did not live to see the culmination of his latest & final dreams with the current work at Castle Grove.

Ray gave generously of his time to various local organisations, being Chair of Governors at East Devon College for many years, greatly in demand as Master of Ceremonies at Rotary, the sidesman in demand for funerals. As he said so truly, “there are no pockets in a shroud.” It was his pleasure to share what he had worked for with others. This was why, for their thirtieth wedding anniversary, Ray & Isabelle walked five hundred miles to Santiago de Compostella in Spain over a month, raising six thousand pounds towards the rewiring of this church & staying in hostels.

Ray had many memorable holidays with his family, because he loved to provide for them. On his sixtieth birthday, three years ago, a group went to Cephalonia for Captain Kenny’s birthday bash. Last year holidays were spent in Sardinia with Lucy’s new family, the Bulls. There was also a big get-together in Waterrow for his big brother Sean’s sixty-fifth last year. Friends & family were so important to him. He liked nothing more than to organise surprises for Isabelle, the last of which being when he got Simon & Liz Fouracres to take him secretly to Exeter to buy her pearls for Lucy’s wedding. He also loved meeting new people, & giving everyone advice on how to do things! We all find ourselves uttering “Rayisms.”

It was a source of great joy to Ray that Lucy met Nick, & that he knew her marriage would be like his own. He was happy to pass his beloved daughter into Nick’s hands, knowing that Nick would be able to handle her! Sadly, he was diagnosed two weeks before the wedding, but managed to give her away, & lead her down the street, driven by car, as she walked behind. He gave a wonderful speech, without as many tears as at his own, & had a lovely birthday party on the day after, when people were able to tell him how much he meant to them. He also knew in hospital that Lucy & Nick are expecting his first grand-child. We know he would have been an out-standing grand-father.

Remembering Ray

It is particularly poignant that he worked so hard to regain his fitness after he so nearly died two years ago, near his sixty-first birthday, after his operation.
Ray had so much energy and enthusiasm. Ray’s fitness enabled him to be treated like a man of less than sixty in his final illness. We are grateful to all his brothers for offering to be stem cell donors. He has been spared this, which would have meant a long stay in hospital in Plymouth, away from all he knew & loved.

During his illness he was so brave & got to know everyone’s names in hospital. After his death, the consultant rang & said “He was a fantastic patient.” After thirty-one days he came back to his beloved home, & had two peaceful weeks, going to bed early, having breakfast in bed, walking in the garden, inspecting the building, being visited by friends. He even cooked some meals, & made one of his legendary mince-tarts with his sweet pastry. During his final stay in hospital, he was even able to go in the car with Isabelle to Exmouth & have a little walk along the sea front where they had done so much courting.

Ray, may God bless you and take care of you. We thank God for your life which has enriched and touched the lives of all who remember him. You were loved by all. The family are continuing his legacy at Castle Grove as a unique retirement home upholding his first class standards.

Remembering Ray

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1 Comment

  1. lorraine kelly on February 3, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    To all of The Kenny family, I am so sorry and saddened by the death of Ray. I worked for ray and isabelle nearly 2 years ago at Castle Grove. My thoughts are with you all.
    Take Care

    Lorraine Kelly

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