April 16, 1932 ~ December 14, 2020

Born in: Lynchburg, VA
Resided in: Webster, NY

Ray Thurmond Oglesby, age 88, passed away from complications related to COVID-19 at Maplewood Nursing Home in Webster NY on December14, 2020.  Ray is survived by his 3 children, Lisa (Roderick) Oglesby Rocha of Dallas, TX, Scott (Nancy) Oglesby of Hillsborough, NC, and Karen (John) Wagner of Rochester NY and his 6 grandchildren, Maria Oglesby of Alhambra, CA, Mark Oglesby of Hillsborough, NC, Ray Wagner of Salt Lake City, UT, Clara Wagner of Northhampton, MA, David Oglesby of Wilmington, NC, and Chantel Torrey of Seattle WA.

Ray was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the youngest of 4 children. He attended the University of Richmond for his undergraduate and M.S degree.  Ray then served in the Navy from 1955 to 1958.  Ray attended UNC Chapel Hill where he received his doctorate in Sanitary Engineering based on his research into the environmental effects of DDT.  He received a teaching post and eventually a tenure-track position at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA and then went on to accept a tenure-track position at Cornell University in 1968.  He rose to the level of Chairman of the Department of Natural Resources and was a faculty representative on the Cornell Presidential Council.  Towards the end of his career he advised on global climate change and third world environmental issues. He retired from Cornell in 1995 as a Professor Emeritus.

Ray was a lifelong lover of nature and scientific inquiry.  He volunteered for nearly 20 years in Ithaca with Hospicare & Palliative Care as “The Pancake Man”.  He was an ombudsman as part of his advocacy for the elderly at several Ithaca retirement communities.  He also had a significant role in the Finger Lakes Land Trust which mirrored his passion to protect the land for the enjoyment of future generations.

After his volunteer work and travel to interesting places. he moved to Rochester NY in 2012. He initially lived at Rivers Run where he discovered a talent and passion for painting outdoor nature scenes.  He also lived at Cloverwood Senior Living before transitioning to Maplewood Nursing Home where he received excellent care and loving attention.

Ray will be dearly missed for his kind and generous spirit.  He was someone who guided and supported those he touched in a myriad of ways and he will continue to add positive energy to our universe.

In lieu of flowers, Ray would have appreciated you taking a walk in nature, or doing something kind for someone else and to keep on smiling, and to contribute positively to this world – because that was the “Ray Way”.  Given the current COVID pandemic, the family will have a small private green burial and will plan for a memorial service this summer when the pandemic allows. Condolences may be offered at https://meesonfamily.com/obits/ray-t-oglesby/.

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  1. Ray sounds like a beautiful man, a caring soul who made sure others enjoyed pancakes and nature.
    What a combination! love, Barbara and Stan Katz

    • Thank you Barbara and thank you for being present ‘virtually’ at his burial on a beautiful snowy day.

  2. I had the pleasure of knowing Ray as a volunteer at Hospicare, where he became known as the Pancake Man. He derived such pleasure making the patients, their family members and all the staff pancakes on Wednesday mornings. Ray always had a smile and story to share. He will be missed. My condolences to the family as you grieve his passing.
    Sincerely, Wendy Yettru (Volunteer Manager at Hospicare)

  3. Dear Oglesby Family
    I am sorry for your loss. Ray hired me when I first came to Cornell as he was then the Director of the Cornell Biological Field Station, the position I have now. He was a great friend of the field station and helped us in the transition from John Forney to Ed Mills. Ed was his doctoral student. Thus, he has had a lot of impact on the field station and I always enjoyed talking with him. The “Ray Way” is a beautiful way to walk through life.
    Lars Rudstam, Director of the Cornell Biological Field Station.

    • Thank you for sharing that bit of history. About a year ago, he became very very interested in finding out about the Biological Field Station and had it in his head that it no longer existed. He would bring up his concern several times. My husband did some research and found your name + information about the status of the Station and he shared it with my Dad. He was so relieved and happy. I would love to go there sometime next year to visit. I have fond memories of Shakelton Point. One of my favorite was a week our young family spent in the house, along with other guests and families. At night we all played a game together that involved mystery, running around the house, laughter and I believe there might have been an abundance of drinks among the adults….

  4. Dr. Oglesby was one of my professors at Cornell in the late’70s who was always helpful, easy to talk to, and had great stories. I’m sorry for your loss of this great man.

    • I am touched that you remembered him after so many decades. Thank you so much for sharing. He truly was a good man.

  5. Ray was on my master’s committee in early 1970s and supported my research in the Adirondacks. He was a real character, a wonderful teacher, and a true mensch (Yiddish). He was great as Dept. Chair, treated the Grad Students well, and later, after I left for Berkeley and beyond, he hired me to back teach in the summers. He never gave me any slack for my hair or appearance, which was not the norm at Fernow Hall 50 years ago! There is an old Jewish saying for inspirational leaders such as Ray, “May his memory be for a blessing.” Loosely translated, may our memory of Ray inspire us to acts of kindness and charity (i.e. “blessings”). My thoughts and sympathy go out to Ray’s family, friends, and those who loved him.

    • So well said Michael, thank you! Your post prompted a memory for me. After my parents divorced, it was just he and I for my 11th and 12th grade and I often adopted…alternative ways of dressing. As we were saying goodbye one morning, I could tell he wanted to say something but wasn’t sure if he should. Finally, nervously, he blurted out, “Honey, I think you might have forgotten to take your pajamas off”.

      Thank you for your sympathy. Yes, he was a mensch and his absence is sorely felt.

  6. Before moving to Rochester, Ray was a dedicated volunteer for the Finger Lakes Land Trust, and served on some land protection committees. I had the good fortune to go on a number of site visits with him. These often involved long drives, and Ray could be counted on to keep us all entertained with interesting stories about practically anything. His interests and knowledge were unusually broad. At the Land Trust’s annual winter party, he could be counted on to cook some delicious item for everyone to share. Ray was an extraordinarily upbeat, generous, friendly, cheerful person, and will be missed by many.

    • Betsy, he had a lot of fondness and respect for you. He really loved his work with the Finger Lakes Land Trust which, if I remember correctly, you played a pretty key role. Thank you for sharing.

  7. I was a lowly work-study student in the Department of Natural Resources in academic years 1983-84 and 1984-85. Dr. Oglesby was chair and led the ship with humor and treated everyone with dignity. He told great stories with his lovely soft accent. It made for a pleasant work environment—a break from the stress of classes. I’m glad he had a chance to contribute so much post-Cornell. My condolences to his family—I know you’ll miss his warmth.

    • How meaningful that you shared this memory. He was good at de-stressing others and didn’t judge you as ‘less’ for being stressed. I think it’s an attribute that animals sensed and dogs and cats were always drawn to him.

  8. To all my Newfield and Ithaca friends and family.. I had the most awesome honor of knowing this man for the last year. I learned things about my hometown from him that I never knew. Ray… you were a bright spot in our lives everyday. When you left us, the tears flowed. Enjoy your beautiful spot on “The Hill”.

  9. We will always have a place in my heart. He teachings will live on in me as they will in most everyone he met. I hope just a little bit of his nature will always be evident as I carry-on. Thank you for sharing the beautiful tribute.

    • Ray would be disappointed with my typos caused by rushing and apparently not proofreading! (Though I know he would also forgive and forget!)

      • Your post about the typos made me smile. Even in his 88th year, typos and poor sentence structure still irritated him! However, he also became more adept at seeing and appreciating the sentiments and thoughts behind that writing.

        Thank you for sharing your appreciation of him as a teacher.

  10. When we began to work on the Canandaigua Lake Watershed in 1989, Ray was an inspiration and a mentor to many of us. His practical advice was priceless. He laid the groundwork for much of this sort of work in our beloved Finger Lakes. It was always a pleasure to see and talk with him.

    • Thank you so much for sharing this. His advice was practical and often ‘outside the box’. Your post made me reflect how far our lives can ripple outward.

  11. Please accept my condolences on the passing of Ray. Ray was member of my graduate advisory committee at Cornell in the early 70s. I will always remember his quick wit, many stories and mischievous smile. I lost touch with him in the 90s. I live in Brockport, NY. If I had known he was living in Webster, I would have stopped by. My loss.
    Joe Makarewicz

    • Ah yes, the mischievous smile! Thank you for sharing and for staying in touch with him for so long. He always loved it when students stayed in touch.

  12. I only met Ray briefly a couple of times but he was a friend of my mother, Sandra Lovell who resided at Cloverwood and very briefly at Maplewood before passing away last year.
    She spoke highly of him and how interesting he was and he gave her a painting. He moved out of Cloverwood and we did not know where he was.
    Several years later, My mother became seriously ill and went to the Maplewood for just two weeks before passing.
    I was so pleasantly surprised and comforted to hear from the staff how they reconnected at the Maplewood and sat next to each other at a movie shortly before she passed.

    • I am sorry for your loss. I remember him telling me about meeting your mom! It was meaningful for him too. Thank you for sharing that memory.

  13. I met Ray 2 years ago at Maplewood after my mom moved in and what a wonderful man! He was such a wealth of knowledge and always had a smile for everyone. Ray loved sitting in the sun and would point out the beauty of nature along with the wonderful paintings that were inspired from his travels. All from memory… I am fortunate to have met him and will miss our Ray of sunshine…

    • He really did love to sit in the sunshine, especially during the pandemic. He had a beautiful tan! We are grateful to Maplewood for encouraging and supporting his love for being outdoors.

      Yes, we will certainly miss our Ray of sunshine…

  14. I was saddened to learn of the passing of Ray….my sincere condolences to Ray’s family. Upon coming to Cornell, Ray’s interest on freshwater and the environment resulted in numerous research studies of the Finger Lakes. I am forever grateful to Ray, the good times we had sampling the lakes, and the support that he afforded me while working toward M.S. and PhD degrees at Cornell. Ray was a good story teller and a genuine ‘people person’ … attributes that made him so unique as a person. Life after Cornell for Ray was very significant as he gave back to society so much by volunteering his time to people in need. Ray, you will be greatly missed and RIP. Ed Mills

    • Thank you so much for sharing that memory and your gratitude as well as thank you for your condolences. Your name definitely sounds familiar and for a man who didn’t talk about his work much at home and a daughter who has a very poor memory–I know that means you left your mark on him too. He truly was a good person who gave a lot to his communities after retirement. In his old age, he became a real “love bug” and a ray of sunshine during the pandemic.

  15. I met Ray while volunteering at Maplewood and I think I got more from the visits than he did. What an influence and an example in how to move through life with the wonder of discovery and the openness to learn continuously. I hope he had some idea of the impact he’s had and will continue to have on so many. My deepest sympathies to his loved ones.

    • Thank you so much Natalie. He enjoyed the visits with you. I love the way you phrased how he ‘moved through life with the wonder of discovery’. Even during the pandemic, he had so many questions about the virus and research and how society was coping with it. Even around the idea of death, he was full of curiosity. We are glad that he was laid to rest next to the Arnot forest in the Finger Lakes region as the forest and the lake inspired so much of that wonder.

  16. I met Ray several times as a volunteer at Maplewood. Ray was always such a kind and light-hearted spirit. I loved his energy at Maplewood and hearing the stories of his life and family. I will miss him dearly, and I am sending my love to all his family.

  17. I have fond memories of Ray’s chairmanship in the Cornell Department of Natural Resources. He was always upbeat, pleasant, and warm. I was a new faculty member at the time and he made the younger faculty feel welcome and a part of the team (including Barb Knuth and myself as the first female faculty hired in the department). I wish Ray’s family a meaningful holiday filled with remembrances.

  18. I have always smiled when I think of Ray! I knew him first when I worked in the Dept of Natural Resources after finishing my masters over in Horticulture – he was chair at the time. But I really got to know him when I was the executive director of the Land Trust from 1995-2002. We called him The Raconteur and Mr. Finger Lakes! He shared our local cultural and natural history in such a colorful and entertaining way, that nobody ever really got tired of even his more long-winded tales. I also remember his years as The Pancake Man, volunteering locally at the hospice center. We shared a love of the land and waters and all the creatures that bless this region. Just now, I was remembering his vivid description from the journals of the earliest white explorers into these lands – how one journalist had walked for two weeks under a solid canopy of mature forest and the emotions felt when he first broke cover and saw the long expanse of a finger lake shimmering… I’m glad he will be at GreenSprings too.

  19. I worked in Ithaca and then went to school at Cornell. I knew Ray a little, and liked him. I think I met him in conjunction with the Eco-Justice project – folks who cared deeply and intelligently about tending the Creation well. Cornell can be a tough place, fortunately Ray inhabited one of the kinder corners, over in Fernow Hall. I have no doubt that a full generation of Cornellians benefitted from his kind and generous spirit. In addition to talking a walk and smiling more underneath my mask, I’m making a donation to the Finger Lakes Land Trust in his memory.

  20. Ray and I were faculty colleagues at Cornell between 1970 and 1983. He served on several of my graduate student committees and I, his. I always enjoyed and appreciated him and especially his quick wit and fundamental knowledge of nature and aquatic ecosystems.

  21. I was a Unit Assistant at Maplewood Nursing Home on Elmgrove , I would fill up his water when he needs it and see him during dinner time . Ray would always make me laugh all the time. I really enjoyed his artwork too . The memories Ray and I made will always be remembered.

  22. I served with Ray on the board of the Finger Lakes Land Trust. I admired his good sense and appreciated his knowledge of the natural world. He gave presentations on climate change back then (over 20 years ago) when that issue wasn’t as much in the forefront of everyone’s mind as it is now. The last time I was with Ray was in July 2011, when, as director of Greensprings Natural Cemetery, I drove him out there for a tour. He loved it, and chose his burial site that day. But then he asked if we could drive through Arnot Forest, which borders Greensprings. I was glad to oblige. Ray had been involved with the management of Arnot Forest (which is owned by Cornell), and as we drove through, he told me many things about it. At one point, we passed the then-director of Arnot Forest, who was driving the opposite way in his truck, and we stopped and Ray had a nice chat with him. I really enjoyed spending that time with Ray. His enthusiasm, his charm, his sense of humor, and his professional interests were all evident, and it was a pleasure to be with him.

  23. I volunteered at The Maplewood where I would often encounter Ray on his way to/from breakfast or an activity. Such a wonderful man with such a positive spirit! His paintings were lovely and he always was so willing to share stories of his incredibly interesting life. I am so sorry for your loss.

  24. Ray was my undergrad advisor at Cornell in the late 1980s. He gave me the best piece of advice I got that that time in my life. I came into the college as very naive and enthusiastic student, so I filled my schedule. He made me select the 2 courses that were least important to me, and made me drop them. He then said, “as long as you’re here, remember that enjoyment of the Ithaca area is a mandatory 2-credit course. Plan accordingly.” It was a meaningful piece of advice that I remember to this day – to just take some time out to enjoy what you are doing and where you are. I am still grateful to Ray for that advice.

  25. I was one of Ray’s Ph.D students in the first half of the 1980s and he was a great advisor. I tried to contact him several times over the last year to thank him, being late in my career and getting a bit retrospective. I found an email and knew he was in the Rochester area, but was never able to confirm he got my messages. His family can console themselves with the knowledge that he was a good man who helped me and many others. His obituary didn’t mention a lot about his college teaching, but he taught a course on issues in aquatic science that involved tests that were “real life” situations that we had to sort out and make recommendations on how to handle. Several of us use his approach in our own teaching now. Rest in Peace, Ray.

  26. Dr. Oglesby was my advisor as an undergraduate at Cornell back in the early 1980’s. He welcomed me to the department and encouraged me not to get too caught up in major requirements but to take full advantage of all that Cornell had to offer. He opened my eyes to many possibilities in terms of courses in other departments and to all that Ithaca had to offer. He was a great advisor and I can tell from reading all of the other tributes that he was a great man who made the world a better place for those who were fortunate enough to know him.

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