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A Tribute to Ray Price
(October 20, 1933   -   March 17, 2008)

As COPDers, we have been blessed by having help, support and guidance from some very remarkable people. Many of these have left a lasting impression through their dedication to the COPD Community.

Ray Price exemplified this in his active years. Beginning with his membership in COPD-Support.com in the late 1990's, he educated himself on COPD, then stepped forward to help others. There at COPD-Support.com he worked tirelessly for the COPD patient and family. Starting with email list moderation, Ray served in many capacities, including Presidency of COPD Support.

In 2002, believing there was an opportunity to provide even greater support, Ray, along with 6 other active COPD Patients, founded COPD-International. There he helped form many of the early programs and policies that are still in effect today and served in many capacities including Chairman of the Association.

In spite of more than 50 years of smoking which robbed him of his lung capacity and eventually of much of his mobility, Ray continued to educate people on not smoking and on COPD. After a major bout with pneumonia in late 2004, he was only able to walk a few feet at a time.

Even then, when his health allowed, Ray used to use the visual impact of his personal story and physical deterioration to educate young people on the risks of smoking. In an interview with Candace Chase of the Daily Inter Lake paper, he described his visits to his local Junior high school as follows:

"I pull into the parking lot and the principal comes out with a wheelchair and wheels me into the classroom," he said.   "My oxygen tank is with me so they see it all."

Once in the classroom, he told the students about the impact smoking has had on his life. "I tell them if your parents smoke, they're dumping that smoke down your lungs so you best get on their back to quit smoking," Price said.

Ray spent a lot of time studying the latest research on tobacco including the impact of secondhand smoke. A member of Tobacco Free Flathead, he used his citizen power to lobby for tobacco control measures before the legislature.

Those of us who knew Ray can verify - He never pulled any punches.

Even after COPD had taken it toll on Ray, preventing him for such pleasures as golf, fishing and even walking any distance, Ray's drive to help others continued. In addition to his work with COPD patients, on the first and third Tuesdays of each month, he and his wife Helen could be found managing the Martin City food bank.

During his last few years, Ray became increasingly active with his local All Saints Episcopal Church, as a communicant, Eucharistic Visitor, a member of the Altar Guild, and a member of the Vestry. One of his joys was to participate in the church retreats at St. John's Abbey in Minnesota. As an Eucharistic Minister, Ray would take Holy Communion to shut-ins in the Whitefish area. As Father Bradley of the All Saint's Episcopal Church said, "often in bad weather, the only person on the road would be Ray", on his mission to reach those who could not get to church. All this in spite of his own difficulty caused by his COPD. He went on to describe Ray as a most kind, gentle, well read and articulate man who quietly kept everyone on the straight and narrow on issues pertaining to the handicapped and disabled.

Ray passed away of natural causes on March 17, 2008, at North Valley Hospital in Whitefish, Montana.

Ray's philosophy was that we have so much to be thankful for, in spite of our illness. He certainly left a lasting impact on all our lives, through all that he left behind. Even greater though, is the impact he left far beyond our COPD Community.

His work will live on in so many different ways - carried on by others who have been touched by this remarkable man's determination to prevent COPD from dominating him and by his kindness, cheer, dedication and enthusiasm.

cg
3/2/09