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Ray Perez Ray Perez
Inducted: 2011 - Graduated: 1968

Ramon “Ray” Perez overcame a difficult upbringing to become one of the most decorated athletes at Nanuet High School and its premier soccer player. Ray’s mother died of leukemia when he was a toddler and his father, a Merchant Marine, abandoned the family early on. At age 3 Ray came from the South Bronx to St. Agatha in Nanuet, a home for orphaned and troubled children from New York City. He remained at the home for the next 14 years, growing up in a nurturing, sheltered environment conducive to learning and character development.
“I was blessed; I owe a lot of my education to the nuns there,” says Ray, one of the fi rst residents of St. Agatha
to attend and graduate from college. “They were drilling knowledge into my head – reading, mathematics,
English. The nuns preached for us to be kind, generous, appreciative … they provided everything for us. I had
no family – the nuns and priests were my surrogate parents.”
The induction is actually Ray’s second to the Nanuet Hall of Fame. Three years ago he was honored as a
member of the RCPSAL championship track team from 1965.
Like many of the kids from St. Agatha, Ray felt at home on the Nanuet school athletic fi elds, especially on the
soccer turf. He was a three-time All-County player, at center forward and inside right, and led the Rockland
PSAL in scoring as a junior with 17 goals and 5 assists, and as a senior with 21 goals and 7 assists. Twice
he scored a PSAL-record six goals in a game, versus Suffern in his junior year and against Tappan Zee the
following season. He also had a fi ve-goal game against the Mounties and a four-goal outburst against the
Dutchies. His scoring marks for a single game, season and career have never been equaled by a Nanuet player.
“I had a knack of being in the right place at the right time,” says Ray, one of the shortest players on the fi eld at
5-foot-4. “I could anticipate where the ball would be, and if the defense made a mistake, they would pay dearly.
I scored many goals that way.” Ray’s elusiveness is captured perfectly in his nickname, Weasel, which the St.
Agatha kids pinned on him during tackle football games “because I was so short and fast that I would pop out
of nowhere to make a tackle, as in ‘Pop Goes the Weasel,’ ” says Ray, whose name was changed from Ramon to
Raymond when he came to St. Agatha’s.
“He’s a dynamic kid with real fi nesse,” Bob West, his soccer coach at Nanuet, said in the ’67 All-County article.
“He’s a great ballhandler and, obviously, is a real scoring threat.” A true team player, Ray even volunteered to
play goalkeeper for two games his senior year when injuries sidelined the starting goalie, Ishmael Cruz, and the
backup netminder, Al Thaxton. “I sacrifi ced for the team,” says Ray. “The only thing on my mind was winning
and beating Clarkstown … if it wasn’t for my teammates, I wouldn’t have scored any goals. You’re playing for
the team, not individual.”
Bolstered by a bevy of stellar athletes from St. Agatha, who had played together for years prior to high school,
the Knights finished third in the PSAL in 1967 with a 6-3-1 record. The team was led by Ray, fellow All-County
first-teamer Jose “Wolfman” Vega and second-team picks Ishmael Cruz and Bill Dwyer. Other key contributors
included Aldo Filipponi, Jose Cortez, Armando Mercado, Fred Hodges, Ed Walkley and Willis Garcia.
During the winter, Ray wrestled JV his freshman year, joined the newly christened indoor track program the
next two years, then switched back to wrestling as a senior when the County’s top matman in his weight class,
136 pounds, broke an ankle and remained out for the season. Ray capitalized by winning all but one of his
matches and placing second in the County tournament. He was coached by Ray Stedge, whom he described as
“a screamer, a disciplinarian, like a drill sergeant. He’d challenge you, and some guys quit, but he made a lot of
kids produce, and the team was successful.”
In spring track, Ray competed for Dave Hanson’s team all four years, including the PSAL championship
seasons of 1965 and ’68, and pole-vaulted 11 feet in 1968 for a school record (broken later that season by Ed
Stagl). He also scored valuable points in the 120-yard high hurdles, 440 dash and triple jump. At the end of his
senior year Ray was voted the “Most Physically Fit” male athlete by the Nanuet coaches and represented the
school in a regional athletic competition at West Point.
“It was a great honor to be selected as the best overall athlete at Nanuet,” says Ray, who also received the
physical education staff’s award for Most Outstanding in the Field of Physical Education. “Coach Hanson paid
me the best compliment. He called me ‘Mr. All-Around.’ ” That sentiment was seconded by Mike Achille, who
assisted Hanson in track and recruited Ray and other students from St. Agatha’s for the track team. “Ray Perez
was among the most outstanding athletes from St. Agatha,” Achille says. “He was an integral part of the soccer
team under Bob West; he was skilled with the ball and quick. He was also an outstanding wrestler in the early
days for Ray Stedge.”
Ray earned a full soccer scholarship to Bishop College, a small Baptist school in Dallas that’s now defunct, but
never played a game there. The coach of the team left before the season started and Ray was given the option
of being flown back home or trying out for another sport. If he made a varsity squad, his scholarship would be
honored. Ray made the football team – “I wasn’t going back to Nanuet empty-handed” – but languished on the
bench as a third-string flanker and gave up football after one season.
Although college soccer was no longer an option, Ray continued to indulge his passion for the game by playing
in a semipro league in Dallas during the school year and also playing for five summers in the highly competitive
Cosmopolitan League in New York City. He had a tryout with the New York Cosmos professional team but was
displaced by the foreign stars recruited to attract fans to the new franchise. “I always tell people that the coach
picked Pelé over me,” Ray says with a laugh.
After graduating from Bishop with a degree in physical education, Ray moved back to New York in 1972 to
start a family. After several moves within the city, however, he decided to relocate to the more family-friendly
community of Middletown, N.Y., where he and his family remained for seven years. During that time he helped
found the Middletown Soccer Club and became a licensed coach. In 1983 Ray received a work promotion and
moved his family to the Buffalo area, where he continues to live today.
Ray has been employed by the New York State Department of Corrections for 28 years. He started as a
recreation supervisor, obtained his master’s in education from Canisius College, and is now education
supervisor at Collins Correctional Facility in Collins, N.Y., south of Buffalo. Ray, who’s 61, and his wife Sonia
have been married 41 years and make their home in the Buffalo suburb of Hamburg. They have three children:
Orlando, 39; Ramon, 38; and Elizabeth, 29; and six grandchildren: Ryan, 15; Jacob, 9; Brianna, 7; Aryanna, 9;
Tyler, 7; and Joseph, 9 months.