by Sue Ann Rybak and Len Lear
“My heart has been filled with sadness since I heard the news,” said Mt. Airy resident Gina Donato, a longtime customer at Earth Bread + Brewery, 7136 Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy, where Bernard Ray worked as server for four years until he was let go last November. “My son, Jasper, looked forward to Thursdays as it was ‘time to see Bernard at the pizza store.’ (Tom Baker, the restaurant’s co-owner, told us in a phone call last Friday that Bernard had been “let go,” but he declined to offer any more details.)
“Every week, he would greet us like family, and he always went out of the way to welcome my parents and out-of-town guests like regulars. I have an Elmo sticker in my wallet; one night Jasper was upset when we arrived at Earth Bread + Brewery. For some reason he wanted one of those umbrellas you put in drinks. They didn’t have any at the bar. I saw Bernard rustling around, looking through a drawer, and then he appeared with an Elmo sticker to cheer Jasper up.
“That’s the kind of man he was. Sure, we like pizza and beer, but we wouldn’t have been at Earth Bread + Brewery every week if it hadn’t been for Bernard. He was a light in our life. Last Sept. 4 was the day after my son’s second birthday, and it was his birthday party. We celebrated it a day late because Bernard didn’t work on Wednesdays, and Jasper’s birthday wish was to ‘eat pizza with Bernard.’ He was such a wonderful man.”
Mt. Airy resident Bernard Ray’s life ended suddenly and tragically on Jan. 4 when he was shot to death on the 3700 block of North Delhi Street in Hunting Park. According to police reports, Ray, 39, was found fatally shot in the chest after his car crashed into three parked cars around 3 a.m.
According to a family member, after Bernard lost his job at Earth Bread + Brewery, he began “using his car as a taxi to make money for his family.” It is believed that he had picked up passengers on Jan. 4 and driven them to Hunting Park, where they murdered him, apparently in a robbery. As of our press time Tuesday, no arrests had been made in the case.
Friends and family are heartbroken and shocked by the death of the father of four with an “infectious smile.” Ray was a longtime Mt. Airy resident who was well known in the community for his cheerful personality and ability to make everyone feel welcome.
La Rose Ray, Ray’s aunt, described her nephew as a dedicated family man who loved spending time with his four children —Asia Ray, 19, Malakai McBride, 13, Fahrad McBride, 10, Solomon McBride, 8, and his granddaughter, Nylah Ray, walking and playing in Wissahickon Park. (We asked a family spokesperson, who asked that we not mention her name, who is taking care of Bernard’s children and about the mother of the children, but she replied, “We do not want to share personal information at this time, especially information regarding the children.”)
As a young boy, Bernard attended C.W. Henry Elementary School, where he loved singing, listening to music and spending time with friends and family. He graduated from Roxborough High School in 1993. Ray’s aunt said his love of school and education eventually led him to get a job as a classroom assistant at Young Scholars Charter School, 900 N. Marsh St. in North Philadelphia, where he worked for three years. She added that the students loved his easy-going and light-hearted personality.
“He believed that children should be well educated about their culture and heritage and should have an equal opportunity to learn and succeed, like everyone else in the world,” his aunt said. “He loved to draw, listen to music of all kinds and write down his inspirational thoughts and aspirations of living.”
In a video posted on myfoxphilly.com, Bernard Ray’s father, Bernie, said he was “the best son in the world. I loved him very much; I miss him very much.” Also in the video was Bernard’s daughter, Asia, who said her father always called her “his ace. He said I was the next in line, and if there was a time when he wasn’t there, for me to be strong.”
Last week the Earth Bread + Brewery Facebook page was filled with several dozen messages from customers, all filled with praise for Bernard. Omar Franklin, one of Ray’s many friends, called him “a loving man. He was the type of man I wish I had as a father.”
Petra Brizan-Brown, another customer at Earth Bread + Brewery, said she was “shocked and saddened” to hear about the slaying of this kind man. “He was always in a great mood with a bright, infectious smile and served us well every single time.”
A memorial service was held last Saturday, 2 p.m., at the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting, 20 E. Mermaid Lane. “His love and loyalty is what he leaves behind instilled in the lives of everyone he encountered,” Ray’s aunt said. She added that because his death was a homicide, it is especially hard for the family to mourn without closure.
There’s a $20,000 reward being offered for anyone with information leading to an arrest and conviction. If you have any information, please contact Philadelphia Police at 215-686-TIPS (8477) or visit PhillyPolice.com.
It is possible that a fund will be set up for Bernard’s children. If that happens, we will provide the details in a future issue.
Almost two weeks have passed and the person(s) responsible for the murder of Bernard Ray remain at large. Ray’s family and friends will be holding a vigil at the location where the homicide occurred, at Delhi and Butler Streets in Philadelphia on Saturday, January 17, 2015 from 4:00 – 5:00 PM. Media personal are encouraged to attend the vigil; police officers will be present.
Ray was a family man, a father of four children, and a friend to everyone. As an active member of the Mt. Airy and Germantown communities and an employee of a popular local restaurant, Ray was well known and loved by many. Over 300 attendees gathered at his memorial service held at the Chestnuthill Meeting House last Saturday, January 10, to share stories and memories of how Ray made a positive impact in the lives of so many.
Bernard Ray was found fatally shot after his dark blue Ford Windstar crashed into three parked cars in Hunting Park around 3:00 AM Sunday, January 4, 2015 on the 3700 block of North Delhi Street.
The family of Bernard Ray and Philadelphia Police are seeking information surrounding the incident and insight into the person(s) responsible for the homicide. The City of Philadelphia is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction.
Anyone with information may contact Philadelphia Police at 215-686-TIPS (8477), text a tip to PPD TIP or 773847 or visit PhillyPolice.com.