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Muskegon parks employee ready to retire at 91, gets big surprise from city leaders

The city of Muskegon is naming the community center at Smith-Ryerson Park after its caretaker who's retiring after 28 years with the city.

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Anyone who's ever visited Muskegon's Smith-Ryerson has more than likely encountered the park's caretaker Sims Ray. For the last 28 years, Ray has looked after the city's park in the Jackson Hill neighborhood like it's his own. From cleaning restrooms at the park to greeting families who rented the park's pavilion and community center for parties, it's Ray who's been there to make sure everything is just right.

"He loves the city, he loves what he does, he loves the local community and it has been such a blessing to have someone like him around here for so long," said Muskegon Parks Department Supervisor Milo Root. "It has been such a blessing to have someone like him around here for so long."

Credit: 13 ON YOUR SIDE

But Root recently learned he'll have to start looking for a replacement for Ray.

"I told them I was going to retire," Ray said. Making that decision even though at 91 years old he still thinks he can do the job. "I think it's time, 91, I think it's time," he said.

Tuesday Muskegon city leaders and members of Ray's family convinced him that he needed to attend an important meeting at Muskegon City Hall. That meeting just happened to be at the same time Muskegon City Commissioners were meeting.

"You're just going for a meeting," Ray's daughter Sandra Brigs kept telling him. "You'll be ok."

Once at city hall family members made sure to get Ray inside the council chamber, and then the mayor called him forward.

 "I was like something is up," Ray said.

It's then Root informed Ray the community center at Smith-Ryerson Park would be named the Sims Ray Community Center. Following the announcement, city leaders and members of the community gave Ray a standing ovation for his hard work and dedication to the city and the parks. A new sign is expected to be installed later this year.

Credit: 13 ON YOUR SIDE

"His name will always stand on this building," son-in-law Kenneth Grissom said. "He's just so deserving," added Ray's daughter Mary Bruce. "I was probably was one of the first ones to get up and give him a standing ovation."

Ray gives credit to his family, especially his wife of 72-years Albirda Ray.

"I'm so proud of him," Albirda said. "Just can't hardly believe it." 

"To me (Muskegon) is home, I love it, all the water, I love the beaches, the parks, I just love it," Ray said.

The entire presentation is on the city of Muskegon's YouTube channel. 

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