On November 9th, at his home in Vermont, a dear friend and great writer passed away. His name was Ray Montgomery.
Many of us, as children, grew up reading his "Choose Your Own Adventure" book series where the reader could choose various paths for the story's main character (you) to follow--some leading to disaster; others to good fortune. It was a very innovative approach to storytelling. I remember being nine or ten years old and devouring his books in the bedroom of my Vermont house. I still remember his stories like "Journey Under the Sea," "The Cave of Time," and others.
What is extraordinary is that I soon learned that the author of these fantastic books lived right down the road from my house.
My father, a talented writer and artist in his own right, became friends with Ray and his wife, Shannon. This is how I came to know the man behind the printed words.
Ray was about as nice and gregarious a man as one could ever hope to meet. He was always jovial, and with his beard and glasses, you could almost believe that secretly he was in fact Santa Clause. He harbored this positive energy that radiated out of him in all directions, and you got this sense that he was one of those rare people that discovered the secret to true happiness in life.
Ray also had a sharp intelligence that was both impressive and intimidating to a young kid such as myself. He would sometimes talk to me as though I was an adult with the same education and maturity as a grown man, which I found both amusing and flattering. He respected you, no matter who you were or how old you were.
However, Ray was not only a great writer; he was a great man with the greatest of hearts--and I want the world, and posterity, to know what he did for me.
When I was sixteen years old I was diagnosed with a rare and serious eye condition that would have left me blind. At the time I was being treated by one of the few opthamologist-specialists in the state of Vermont, but the treatment was nevertheless substandard and antiquated. Things were going from bad to worse and my vision was quickly deteriorating. I was looking at a bleak future of blindness and having to be cared for by others.
That is when Ray Montgomery came to my rescue.
Hearing about my deteriorating condition, and seeing my parents' pain at what was happening to me, Ray arranged for me to travel to Boston to be seen by his friend, Dr. Stephan Foster, head of Harvard Ophthalmology. I was pushed to the front of Foster's long waiting list and he immediately placed me on new treatments. I eventually underwent eye surgery. My condition gradually improved until it was stabilized. Blindness was averted.
Ray Montgomery is not only a writer whose work I admired. He saved my eyesight. To me he is a hero.
I lost touch with the Montgomery's when I left Vermont at nineteen. But I never forgot what he did for me.
It is with great regret that I did not have the chance to say goodbye to him. I wanted to thank him again for what he did.
Ray has now moved on to his greatest adventure yet, the one that lays beyond this world.
Here's to you Ray. I will miss you.