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Ramon 'Ray' Rabago, 1926-2022

Ramon "Ray" M. Rabago Jr. was called home on Jan. 14, 2022, with his daughter Diana by his side. Ray was born on Aug. 27, 1926, in Douglas, Arizona, to Ramon M. Rabago Sr. and Maria Asunción Novoa.

Ray attended Douglas High School, where he graduated with honors in 1944. In high school, Ray was a star athlete and he lettered as a varsity athlete in football, baseball, basketball and in track and field.

Ray was a World War II veteran who proudly served in the United States Army from November 16, 1944 through August 22, 1946, when he was honorably discharged. He served in the 100th Infantry, 3rd Battalion Division in Europe where he was promoted to Motor Pool Sergeant with 3rd Battalion Headquarter Group Infantry Regiment, and later served as Sergeant in charge of the motor pool for the Regular Headquarters for the 7th Infantry Regiment. He received the following decorations and awards: European-African Middle Eastern (ETO) Campaign Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, Victory Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal. He received two Overseas Service Bars. Ray was also decorated by the French military with a French fourragère military rope braid for his unit's successful efforts to get needed ammunition to the French army. He spoke fluent English and Spanish, and learned German while overseas.

Upon returning home from the war, Ray helped establish the Douglas Veteran's Club, a Hispanic veterans group with the mission to ensure equality for Hispanic citizens. Ray remained active supporting veterans' issues his entire life, including helping military widows receive benefits. He was a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 426, and of the American Legion in Douglas, Arizona, where he served as the Post Commander of the Fred Hilburn Post 11 in 1964-1965. Ray received many awards and recognitions for his dedicated efforts, and was appointed the National Aide-de-Camp for the VFW by the National VFW Commander in 1965, and he was appointed as the statewide Arizona Deputy Chief-of-Staff for the VFW in 1966. In 2006, Ray was honored as the Grand Marshal of the Douglas Veteran's Day Parade.

Ray continued with sports after the war and played semi-professional baseball with the Douglas Internationals and he was even offered a baseball scholarship to play catcher for the University of Arizona, but stayed in Douglas because he had married the love of his life, Amelia Estrada, in 1947. Together, they raised a family and spent their life in Douglas.

Initially, Ray worked in construction and later owned his own plumbing business. In 1952, Ray became the first Mexican-American firefighter for the Douglas Fire Department where he served 34 years, first as an Engineer, then as Captain, and retired as the Assistant Fire Chief in 1986. During his years as a firefighter in Douglas, Ray was a certified arson investigator and he also served as the Chief Safety Officer for all of the departments of the City of Douglas since 1969. Governor Sam Goddard appointed Ray to the Governor's Civil Defense Advisory Council in 1965. Later, Governor Bruce Babbitt wanted to appoint Ray as the State Fire Marshal for the State of Arizona, but Ray declined the honor, as it would have meant uprooting his family to Phoenix, so Babbitt appointed Ray as the Assistant Deputy State Fire Marshal for the State of Arizona.

Ray loved the outdoors and enjoyed fishing, camping, and hunting. He loved being at his parents' farm in Elfrida. Ray was an avid reader of history and current events, and he loved sharing family roots.

Ray was preceded in death by his parents, Ramon Rabago Sr. and Maria "Concha" Rabago; his infant son, John Jacob, his loving wife, Amelia E. Rabago, as well as his siblings, David Rabago, Edmundo "Charro" Rabago, and Maria Eulalia "Lali" Rabago-Olea. Ray is survived by his children Alvina (Paul) Pawlik, Diana Rabago Payne, Anthony (Anna) Rabago, Ernest (Teresa) Rabago, Robert (Mary) Rabago, and Vince Rabago. Also surviving Ray is his younger brother Richard Rabago, and Ray's legacy of 20 grandchildren, 42 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.

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Ray was a beloved son, brother, husband, father, and grandfather, who enjoyed being around all of his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Ray was so very proud of everyone in his entire family. He will be dearly missed by his family, his friends, and the entire community.

Funeral services will be held on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Douglas, Arizona, with a Rosary at 10:15 a.m., followed by a funeral Mass at 11:00 a.m. A military burial will immediately follow at Calvary Cemetery.

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