EUSTIS — Last month saw the passing of a classic military type from an earlier era.
By all accounts, Marine Lance Cpl. Ray Adams was the guy who could be counted on to liberate a Jeep or hummer from an adjoining unit’s motor pool. He also knew how to make jungle juice; and he had a particularly sharp entrepreneur’s eye that lent itself to living aboard ship or in the field — skills which translated well to civilian careers that ran the gamut from marketing to copywriting to small business ownership.
But more, “Ray loved everybody,” said his older brother Kevin Adams who watched over his Leatherneck sibling at his Country Club Manor home during the last year of Ray’s life.
Ray died on Dec. 4, 2018, at age 62 while in the care of Cornerstone Hospice in Tavares, a facility Kevin could not say enough good things about. “George Wanberg (a Vietnam veteran and head of Cornerstone’s Veteran Salute Program) and his other Marine buddies were especially good to Ray,” Kevin said. “The Corps truly is a brotherhood.”
It was a growing, inoperable brain tumor that felled the jovial warrior, although Kevin was quick to note that “my brother lived 19 months past his doctor’s life span prediction. More, he was his usual upbeat, sunshine-spreading self right up until the end.”
Ray Adams was a legendary “dot-connector” who, in retirement, owned barbershops in both New England and Eustis. Ray typically infused the local business community with creative formal and informal partnerships and ideas.
“He was sometimes the first person I asked to find out where to find something or who to call to purchase or repair a particular item or system,” said local restaurateur (and Marine Desert Storm vet) Glen Key of Quarterdeck and Mason Jar fame. “Ray was all about sharing everybody else’s business cards. And he was all about stirring up synergy among and between diverse enterprises,” Key said.
“Diverse” also characterized Ray’s career in the Marine Corps: He held three different military occupational specialties (personnel administrator, combat correspondent and recruiter) and twice had “broken time,” that is, he was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps and then chose to seek re-enlistment many months later — never automatically approved.
Ray moved around so much during and between duty stations and after retirement that his call sign was “Tumbleweed,” according to Kevin.
“He was never one to sit still for very long,” his brother said. “But he brought serious joy everywhere he lighted. His personality, his encouragement of others, was just so good.
“And he was extremely proud to be able to call himself a Marine — and was happy, always, to meet anybody who served in the Armed Forces, regardless of branch,” said the elder Adams.
In the Corps, Ray put some of his early-enlistment behaviors behind him as he joined the NCO ranks and became a staff, non-commissioned officer. One of his several awards — a second Navy Achievement Medal earned while serving with a fighter attack squadron — cited his “infallible good judgment” on a particularly challenging operational deployment.
And when Lt. Col. Jim Vance, a favorite boss from Adams’ combat correspondent days, learned the news of his go-to Marine’s death, he spoke fondly of Ray with the authentic, cowboy brevity that has great meaning in the Corps: “Ray was one of the good ones.”