Drummer Feature July 24, 2005
collecting and selling bobble heads to concocting annual disc golf
tournaments, the late Jason Patrick Ray had a way of getting right to
Ray died on April 17, 2005 in Sandstone, Minnesota, while kayaking on
River. There was no drugs, alcohol or foul play involved for this
Scout from Annandale. Instead it was a deceivingly fierce undercurrent
this 30-year-old man's life far too soon.
it was with his business dealings or family or friends, his easy-going
and insatiable entrepreneurial spirit often blew open doors to exciting
ventures for the dealer in sports memorabilia.
Ray was always on the lookout for the next "it" item and he often
found "it," too.
there were a bobble head give-a-way -- whether in Tennessee or Chicago,
would likely go there, often driving a van filled with children or
where he would add to his sports memorabilia stash.
knew every give-away in the U.S.," said Ray's fiance, Colleen
he had something he wanted you to do, he didn't take no for an answer,"
chuckled Scott Keeler, Ray's most recent business partner.
the son of Steve and Linda Ray, graduated from Monticello High School
and made a
full-time business of collecting and selling sports cards and other
memorabilia; including an extensive collection of bobble heads.
would then sell the items on his website, as well as on E-bay and at
markets and sports shows such as Twins Fest. He was known around the
States - actually, the world -- as the "King of the Bobble Heads." He
had close to 4,500 of them, total.
he did not have adequate room in his apartment, Jason never got the
see his collection properly displayed," said Steve, "and most people
had no idea how many he had."
summer Ray's parents made it their mission to erect a temporary tribute
son. It was one of the most unique tributes imaginable: a display of
different bobble heads he'd owned.
amazing collection of Ray's has already been documented by the
and will be showcased on "Pop Nation," sometime this fall.
brother Eric, who is a rocket scientist living in Maryland, was
the show, and Discovery has indicated that they will also help the
the bobble head collection on E-bay.
collector/trader/seller was a born businessman -- running a lemonade
the age of five, and as the Navy family moved from one state to another
years, Ray's business focus remained grounded.
was wise beyond his years," shared Linda
did attend college for a brief time but an insatiable gusto to hit the
business trail was too strong and he left school to open his own video
store (with Gene Kiphuth) in Annandale.
it difficult to keep up with the mass chain's prices and products, the
closed its doors
as fate would have it, that's just about when Ray took note of
annual Jesse James Days and came up with the innovative idea of
Jesse James bobble head dolls. He approached the city with his proposal
rest is bobble head history.
Annandale resident also had a knack for overcoming adversity. The Jesse
dolls, for example, were manufactured in China and some of the wording
incorrectly spelled on the 1,000-doll order.
quickly gathered up Dremel sanders and paint -- and his family and
and they frantically worked for several days to alter the wording, just
entrepreneur's proudest accomplishment (alongside Keeler) was likely
for obtaining contracts for, and manufacturing bobble head dolls of the
Minnesota Viking Purple People Eaters: Jim Marshall, Gary Larson, Alan
Carl Eller - as well as other famous sports icons.
worked closely with the artists to make sure each doll was crafted just
was a stickler for detail.
had a knack for making friends with many of his contacts -- including
good buddies with former Vikings’ running back, Chuck Foreman.
company was featured in several national periodicals including the Wall
Journal, as well as the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
often divided his time between work and sports. His most recent forays
kayaking and disc golfing. He founded the annual disc golf tournament
Hills Course in Barrett, Minnesota.
the owner of the company where Ray purchased his disc golfing supplies
of his death he crafted complimentary commemorative disc markers with
for a memorial dedication, which was held at Sumac Hills.
"During his life he was able
to help so many people, and
now we are being helped by so many," shared Linda.
was not one to toot his own horn, either. Whether he'd just met another
athlete or helped out a cousin or friend he usually didn't relay that
information to his parents.
discovered how much they didn't know when they went through his
There were signed photographs and notes from local and national
to mention uncovering cases upon cases of bobble head dolls that he had
in numerous locations.
realized we didn't know the half of it," said Steve.
memorial service was a testament to his own effervescent uniqueness: it
live music from three members of a band whose music he loved, Monroe
and touching and humorous eulogies from numerous family members and
were bottles of Ray's favorite root beer (that had to be purchased and
back from the Dakotas), and lots of key lime pie -- made by Commerford
the service, attendees were urged to take home a Jesse James bobble
June 29, there was another convergence of family and friends on what
been his 31st birthday. The group flew kites in his memory. Commerford
indicated in her eulogy that Jason had always wanted her to fly a kite
and she never had, so she urged others to do so that special day in
passing obviously affected so many lives. Ray and Commerford were in
planning stages of their wedding. Of course there would have been
replicas of the couple upon their wedding cake, shared Commerford with
is also finding it tough to move forward with the business.
did everything together," said Keeler. We went to Ohio, Georgia,
- we were always together. The hardest part is when I go to baseball
people come up to me asking: 'Where's Jason?'"
always knew the most amazing things," added Keeler. "He knew every
little niche. He was my motivation. It's not fun to do anymore. It's
the same now."
had too many ideas and too little time," Commerford commented.
and Linda are aided during this difficult time by the support of loved
friends, as well as via anonymous people who've reached out to them.
attend a support group. However, it is their deep faith that has
family opted to donate Ray's eyes following his death. A gift that is
beautifully suited from a man "who really loved helping people," said
Linda, "no matter what they needed."
memorial fund has been set up in Jason Ray's name.