Ray was born in Fortuna on May 22, 1964 to James and Bessie Elliott, and passed at his home in Rio Dell on April 29, 2024.

Those are the basic facts, but in between is the life of an amazing man. On paper, it was average, he went to grade school at Rio Dell, graduated Fortuna High, worked at a couple of jobs until getting a job at Pacific Lumber in 1984 at Mill A in Scotia. In between are stories that some friends don’t even tell because it sounds made up. Unless you knew Ray. Ask any law enforcement officer that worked in the area after Ray got a license and I promise you, they know him. Even the ones that Ray had a brush with liked him, it was hard not to.

In Eureka one Saturday night, a few people were standing around Rays ‘68 Cougar, including a Eureka officer. One of the young guys told Ray his car wasn’t that fast and the officer told him, “I chased this car up “I” street one night, I can promise you, it’s fast!” Ray always made a point to be nice to people, even those trying to add to his growing pile of tickets.

Ray also loved racing, more than most anyone, and he possessed more God-given talent and coordination at the controls of anything than virtually anyone. He started racing ATVs in 1985, and loved to travel out of the area with one of his best friends, Billy Dillard, to race. There was a winter series in Central Point and Ray made friends with a nationally ranked pro who had a fast bike, talent and plenty of money. Ray had a stock bike, very nearly zero money but also had endless determination and drive. He rode daily, worked out tirelessly and watched his diet. Each week he got closer to winning until he finally did it. He won against one of the best in the nation — straight up, no excuses.

That’s how Ray lived, one goal to the next, but not financial goals, or status goals, Ray loved to live, meet new friends, race and party, never a dull moment. At one race in Crescent City, he’d had so much fun the night before, he had only enough money to either enter the Pro race, or buy gas to make it home. The pro race was winner-take-all; second place paid nothing. With everything on the line, he put in his money and won, beating a class of guys that trained, got a full night’s sleep and did all the things athletes are supposed to do. The racing stories could go on forever, and not one doesn’t include Ray making a new friend. He truly loved making new friends.

Most people slow down a bit in their later 20s and Ray did too, sort of. He married Brenda Standifer, quit racing as much, but always enjoyed riding and the family’s annual trip to the dunes.

On July 3, 1992, Ray was involved in a bad accident riding through a sand bowl that left him a paraplegic, unable to use anything below his armpits. At this point, a person has two choices, up or down. Ray chose to take the hand he was dealt and live. His hospital room became a popular spot at the rehab facility in Redding, always a nurse or friends visiting, watching a race on TV and being amazed by Ray’s unbelievable resilience. His doctor suggested Ray become a therapist because of his personality and attitude. He visited the hospital on the doctor’s request a few times to talk with young guys who had been injured.

Ray went back to work at Pacific Lumber for several years, working at the weigh station in Fortuna. It fit Ray well, where again, he made plenty of new friends with nearly everyone that came through the door. The next few years brought a huge change — children. Ray loved his sons Brett, Billy and Deavon more than anything and they were a huge part of his life.

Ray had an incredible ability to make life work while never using his disability as an excuse (well, except in the Taco Bell drive through that one time to get out of a ticket) and successfully juggled life and being a single parent and more recently, a grandparent while dealing with all the medical challenges that go with his injuries.

Racing never left his mind, and when his good friend Mark Baldwin told Ray about a new series, Ray couldn’t resist and put a deposit on a brand new, open-wheeled race car. From the beginning, Ray was fast and smooth, using hand controls fabricated by Mark to operate steering, clutch and brakes, all with hands only. Not happy to just be on the track, Ray raced hard, improved weekly and won two main events in his career.

Ray had an impressive ability to meet racing heroes and be accepted immediately. At a vintage race in Sears Point, he saw pro racer Tomi Drissi driving a ‘68 Camaro racer. Ray noticed the car had opening doors and a passenger seat and the next thing he knew, Tomi asked if Ray could get in by himself, then took him out for a few fast laps.

Through the years, health problems slowed Ray down a bit, but he was still Ray. After getting most of his health problems resolved, you’d think Ray would be happy to take it easy, but you’d be wrong. He bought a high performance side by side that he and his Dad spent hours enjoying off-roading together, just like they did when Ray was young. Ray loved his family very, very much and after his mother’s passing a couple years ago, he made sure his Dad wasn’t bored, planning another lifetime full of adventures for them.

Ray took a great deal of pleasure from watching others succeed. Watching friends and family members give something their best shot was the one thing that Ray got the most satisfaction from.

There’s so much more to say about Ray’s life, like working in the garage with his dad and brother to build the bright red Model A sedan that won many awards including a Best Engineered award at the Portland Roadster show, going to the races with his friends, trips to anywhere and everywhere he was invited at a moment’s notice. Family trips to the dunes, or Utah, as long as family and friends were going, he’d find a way.

One of a kind is the term that gets used most often to describe Ray Elliott. And it ain’t wrong. Love you, Ray.


The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Ray Elliott’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here.