SunRay Kelley, Master Builder of the Counterculture, Dies at 71

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Raymond Elbert Kelley was born on December 1, 1951, in Sedro-Woolley, a logging and mill town. He was one of five children, raised by his parents Cecil and Wanda Kelley. His father worked as a mechanic in a mill, while his mother was a homemaker. Wanda, who came from a Polish immigrant family, had her own eclectic skills in the kitchen, baking her own bread and churning butter. The Kelley family owned a farm where they raised beef and dairy cows.

During high school, Ray focused on studying drafting. He later attended West Washington University on a football scholarship, but his passion for art led him to drop out after two years. Instead, he began designing buildings. Upon showing his intricate sketches to a local builder, Ray was met with skepticism. The builder told him that nobody would construct such unique designs for him, and that he should start learning to build himself.

Raymond Elbert Kelley is survived by his brother, Tim, and his children: Kumara Kelley, Rafe Kelley, Kai Farrar, and Eli Erpenbach. He also leaves behind seven grandchildren. His marriage to Judy Farrar ended in divorce in 1978.

Ray had a set of guiding principles that he lived by. One of them was “barefootism,” which involved staunchly refusing to wear footwear. He believed that going barefoot connected him to the earth’s energy, regardless of the weather. Ray’s partner, Linda Howard, recalled once buying him a pair of boots during winter. However, when she returned home during a blizzard, she found the boots by the door and a trail of footprints leading away from the house, disappearing into the snow.

Another mantra Ray embraced was “dessert first.” He had a habit of consuming dessert before dinner, and he did so with great enthusiasm. Linda Howard mentioned how he would eagerly devour a freshly baked apple crisp using only his bare hands. Ray’s reasoning behind this habit was that one never knows when their time is up, so they should enjoy the sweet things in life before anything else.

Raymond Elbert Kelley was a unique individual with a deep connection to his roots and a passion for creative expression. His barefoot lifestyle and unconventional eating habits were a reflection of his free spirit and zest for life. He will be remembered for his artistic talent, his love for his family, and his ability to immerse himself in the simple pleasures that existence has to offer.

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