Obituary: Raymond Kay Brown

Great-grandfather, pastor, peace activist, fisherman

Dr. Raymond Kay Brown, a 20-year resident of Pilgrim Place retirement community in Claremont, died March 14 at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, three days after his 87th birthday.

Kay, as he was known to his family and friends, was born on March 11, 1936 in Pocatello, Idaho. He grew up in Glendale, California where he was a graduate of Hoover High School. After attending two years at Occidental College, he transferred to Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology. After graduation from Whitworth, he attended San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, graduating with a Master of Divinity in 1962. He earned his Doctor of Ministry degree in 1978.

He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church and over the course of the next several decades served in churches in California, Nebraska, Washington, and Arizona. Two of these were new church developments. He also served for a period as the alumni director of Whitworth College, as a chaplain at retirement communities in Arizona and at San Antonio Gardens in Claremont, and as chaplain at Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort in Sandpoint, Idaho.

In 1983, he became ill with an undiagnosed illness and fell into a coma. The doctors said that his condition was terminal, and he would not live more than a few weeks. Miraculously, he came out of the coma and recovered, with little apparent medical explanation, and lived a very full life for another 40 years.

He was an avid catch and release fisherman his entire life, and found much joy and sustenance from trout streams all over the west, as well as in New Zealand. He spent childhood summers fishing with his grandfather in the Yellowstone area, where he learned the high art of fly fishing. He tied his own flies and made several of his own fly rods. “As Kay came into his retirement years, he and his wife Suzanne spent many vacations near rivers and lakes where he fished and they could enjoy time camping in God’s creation,” his family shared.

During his teenage and college years, he ran track, specializing in hurdles. He lettered at Hoover, Occidental and Whitworth. In his later years he was active in competitive race-walking.

As a pastor, he was always a people person. Skilled at pastoral care, he had an uncanny ability to always remember everybody’s name, even up to his final days as other memories faded. He was a progressive Christian, believing God’s love was for all people, and dedicated to proclaiming peace and calling out injustices in the world. He was part of an active weekly peace vigil on a busy intersection in Claremont for more than 12 years. He was also a creative stained glass artisan and was involved in many Pilgrim Place theatrical productions.

He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Suzanne; children, Steve Brown, Kevin Brown, Deena Rauen, and Mitch Ratcliffe; grandchildren, Meaghen Brown, Linnea Rauen, Janae Lindahl, Jonah Brown, Naomi Skaggs, Caleb Brown, Taylor Ratcliffe, Geneva Ratcliffe and Eva Ratcliffe; and great-grandchild Juniper Lindahl.

He was predeceased by his son, James Ratcliffe.

Services will be held at 3 p.m. on Father’s Day, June 18, in Decker Hall at Pilgrim Place in Claremont.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Pilgrim Place Residents Health and Support Program at, or by check to 625 Mayflower Rd., Claremont, CA 91711.


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