Services Thursday afternoon for Deputy Steve Ray

They say those in law enforcement, often stressed and facing danger, have an abridged lifespan.

“It could be as much as 25 years shorter than the average person. Some of us make it to the finish line and some of us don’t,” a grieving Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis said this week, as he talked about his friend and colleague, Deputy Steve Ray, an 18-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, who died suddenly and unexpectedly last week.

The 42-year-old Mardela High School graduate and resident of Quantico was the father of three. One son will soon graduate from high school. The family has been making plans for a party.

“How sad it is that this man, who was so young, died. He stayed in shape all the time. He had been to the gym. He died Thursday afternoon, but he wasn’t discovered until Thursday evening,” Lewis said. The cause of death hasn’t yet been determined.

A U.S. Marine and drill instructor at the academy where deputies are trained, Ray had the ability to give orders with authority and command respect, but there was also a softer side.

“Steve had a great sense of humor. He was a practical joker. Guys who worked with him, he kept them in stitches,” Lewis said.

When he formally announced Ray’s death, the sheriff said it was with “tremendous sorrow and profound sadness.”

“He has worked in a variety of positions. He was a very valued member of our emergency response team. He was one of the original members of our Motor Unit. Because of his Marine Corps background, he was leader. When he spoke, and he gave commands, because of his military bearing he knew what to say and everybody listened,” said Lewis, who knew Ray 18 years, since Ray joined the Sheriff’s Office after being discharged from the Marine Corps.

“He was the youngest of five children and the first of those children to die,” Lewis said. “Steve was the baby brother.”

His funeral is today, May 24, and the procession, including officers from around the region, is expected to be so big that traffic advisories were issued, Lewis said.

Viewing for Ray was on Wednesday at Holloway Funeral Home from 6 to 9 p.m. A viewing and funeral service is planned for today at Allen Memorial Baptist Church. The large procession is expected to leave the church at approximately 2:30 p.m. and use the bypass to get to Mardela Springs for interment.

Motorists are cautioned that there will be a substantial increase in traffic surrounding these events and are asked to take care and allow extra time when travelling through these areas.  The procession is expected to be very large, and traffic will be stopped in the area as the procession passes.

Wicomico County Circuit Judge Matthew Maciarello, formerly Wicomico County State’s Attorney, posted sentiments on Facebook, writing, “I received the calls from friends that my friend Steve Ray departed this life and I have felt hollow and in shock since.

“We spent hours together working on tough cases, so I can share that we lost a selfless, enthusiastic and dedicated public servant and protector of his family and the community. He was so dedicated to his brothers and sisters in the Marines, military and law enforcement. He was committed to Hero’s Haven and Wounded Warrior causes.

“There are certainly mysteries in this life that we are not created to comprehend. I pray for his friends and family (including the WCSO), that they might find peace and comfort in this difficult time. We miss you, Steve,” Maciarello wrote.

On his Facebook page, Ray posted that he was a Baltimore Oriole’s fan, enjoyed country music, and supported the Wicomico Child Advocacy Center Foundation, Inc. His last posts – nature and fishing scenes – were made in February.

Ray, who was born in Baltimore, volunteered and coached at Mardela High School. He was a Mardela Springs Firefighter Cadet.

In his obituary, he is remembered as “a gentleman, and a very great friend, mentor and comrade to so many” and honored for being “a “loyal and dedicated member of our Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team and a coveted member of our much-beloved WCSO Motor Unit.”

“He certainly was a great friend,” Lewis said.

“I ask that you keep the men and women of the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office and the family of Deputy Steven Ray in your thoughts and prayers,” he said.

“They will be experiencing many difficult days ahead.”

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

As your community newspaper, we are committed to making Salisbury a better place. You can help support our mission by making a voluntary contribution to the newspaper.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.