Ray Horvath was driven by the desire to make life better for those around him. Yet his reputation and his honor did not rest on that desire alone, but rather upon a vision, meticulous planning, an incredible work ethic and attention to detail that made those desires a reality. He didn't just talk about making a difference in people's lives, he made a difference in his profession, the community, neighborhood, and family.
Raymond Eugene Horvath died on November 2, 2019 in Farmington. He was born on January 23, 1928 in Gallup, New Mexico to John G. Horvath Sr. and Lillie Mae Cates. He was preceded in death by his wife Nellie.
Ray was preceded in death by siblings Mary Alice Schofield, John Horvath, Eleanor Gibson, Robert Horvath and is survived by sisters Edith Bukovec, Bertha Peden, and Brother George Horvath. He is also survived by children Gary Horvath (Inna), Jan Nesslage (John), and Dale Horvath (Frances), 7 grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Ray was raised in a strong international community in Gallup that bonded together during the Great Depression. Later the family moved to Farmington, NM where he graduated from high school. The family faced many challenges during the Great Depression that shaped Ray's philosophy as a person and educator.
After graduation from high school, Ray aspired to attend Colorado State University to become a veterinarian. Instead he was drafted into the Army. Upon his honorable discharge, he returned home and enrolled at the Old Fort Lewis College where he worked in the garage, drove the Mighty Moo (the school activity bus), and most importantly he met Nellie and married her in December 1950. Their first son, Gary, was born in 1951 followed by Jan in 1954 and Dale in 1957. Though Ray never had a chance to achieve his dream at CSU, he could live vicariously through his granddaughter Ana, who is studying biology there.
Ray began his education career in 1952 teaching science at McKinley Elementary. This was followed by stints as assistant principal at Farmington High and Hermosa Junior High. He was also principal at Apache, Country Club, and Ruth N. Bond Elementary in Kirtland. In each of these settings he motivated and inspired students and teachers to make the best of their education experience. He was always thankful for those students who stayed in touch with him throughout the years.
Ray retired as an educator in 1991, dedicating nearly 40 years of service to schools in San Juan County with the belief that "children are worth the effort." During that time he received national recognition. In 1987, he was named the Elementary Principal of the Year by the National PTA.
In 1988, he was selected by the U.S. Department of Education as a National Distinguished Principal. Ray was decades ahead of his time with his "humanistic" approach to learning. He felt the school should provide personalized education to meet each student's needs. He valued their culture while creating an environment where students were taught that they have a responsibility to the larger world. In 1992, he was elected to the National Education Association New Mexico Hall of Fame.
Ray's impact on San Juan County extended beyond education. He was a member of the Farmington Civitans and Lower Valley Lions Club. Ray served on the boards of Farmington Parks and Recreation and Childhaven, and the Boys and Girls Club of Farmington. He was also a member of the Masonic Lodge and served as an usher at the First United Methodist Church in Farmington for many years. For these and many other efforts, Ray was named Farmington Chamber of Commerce's Citizen of the Year in 2006.
In 2008, Ray was inducted into the San Juan Regional Medical Center Hall of Fame for his service on the hospital's board of directors and the board of the San Juan Regional Rehabilitation Hospital.
Ray loved Nellie and his family and was exceptionally proud of them. Through his words and actions, he demonstrated the importance of having a vision, having a good work ethic, being honest, speaking up for what you believe in, and giving back to the community.
A ceremony of Ray's life will be held on November 29, 2019 at the Riverstone Church, 808 N. Monterey, Farmington at 11:00 a.m. followed by a reception at a place to be determined later. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Foundation for Educational Excellence, Attention Cindy Lyons, 3401 East 30th Street, Suite A, Farmington, NM 87402.
Published in Pine River Times on Nov. 11, 2019.