Charles Ray Pond, 94, crossed the final finish line and passed in his sleep due to heart failure on June 20, 2023, at his home in Idaho Falls. He was born March 20, 1929, in Pocatello, Idaho.
He was preceded by his mother Florence Lemmon Pond DaBell, his father Newell Pond, his brothers Jack L. Pond and Ted L. Pond, his sister Geraldine Pond Smith, and his wife, Bonnie Lee McMahan Pond.
He is survived by his sisters Carla DaBell Thomas (Brent), Brenda DaBell Walker (Brad), his children Shellie Lyn Hartman, Wendy Jo Peterson (Craig), Jana Rae Lyons (Keith), and Rod Ross (Teresa); his sisters-in-law Amy Pond and Rita Pond, his brother-in-law Doyle Smith, his longtime companion Donna Molinelli, and his beloved grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.
The family will gather later in the summer/fall to remember Ray at one of his favorite places, the Buffalo River near Pond’s Lodge, the place his grandfather Charles Pond purchased in 1925 and along with his father and aunts and uncles, expanded and rebuilt after an extensive fire in the 1920s.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Seniors West of the Tetons, the local senior center where Ray and Donna spent time with their many friends in the Teton Valley. https://www.tetonseniors.org/
C. Ray Pond was born on March 20, 1929, in Pocatello, Idaho. When he was 3 months old, his family moved to Island Park where his family built a cabin along the Buffalo River, across the river from what is now Pond’s Lodge.
When he was five, his father developed health problems and the family had to move to a warmer climate for the winter. They lived for a time in Mesa and Tucson Arizona, and Ray lived for a time with his Aunt Jennie and Uncle Frank in Benson, Utah where he attended first grade. He later attended school in Ashton, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, and Rigby, graduating from Rigby High School. His father passed when Ray was 13.
During his early childhood, his mother saved up enough money ($35) to purchase the contents of a local radio store that was going out of business. Ray and his brothers spent hours learning how radios worked, repairing broken ones to make money. The skills and curiosity he learned from rebuilding radios would prove instrumental to his future path.
Throughout the summers when he was not in school, Ray worked at Pond’s Lodge in a variety of capacities, as a dishwasher, a short-order cook, restaurant manager and bartender. He and his brothers tied and sold fishing flies to earn extra money.
He attended Idaho State College after high school, working at a local restaurant to earn money for tuition, which he recalled was $26.26 at the time.
In 1950, Ray enlisted in the United States Air Force. The Air Force required a full first name, so he officially added Charles as his first name, after his grandfather. During basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, he was identified as having special skills in Radio Communications. He was sent to Radio Mechanic School at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois and was later assigned to the first Communications Construction Squadron, a newly created unit where he was responsible for wiring the radar cables in the control station to identify potential incoming missiles to the United States. He was stationed in various places including Rome, NY, Ypsilanti, MI, and later in Newfoundland where he built his first boat in his off-duty time.
Ray was honorably discharged from the Air Force in 1954 and returned to Idaho State College to complete his bachelor’s degrees in both mathematics and physics. He then earned his master’s degree in mathematics at the University of Utah.
Ray married Bonnie Lee McMahan in 1957, a kind and fun-loving soul who made him laugh. They moved to the Seattle Washington area where Bonnie taught school and where they raised their three daughters. Ray embarked on a successful 35-year career as an Aerospace Engineer for the Boeing Airplane Company, where he worked on such projects as the inflight refueling system, the Hubble Telescope as a contractor for NASA, and where he developed multiple patents for his work with interferometry, optics, and lasers.
Over the course of his lifetime Ray built several boats and hydroplanes, intentionally using catamaran and trimaran designs to reduce rocking while cutting through the waves, from the first one in Newfoundland to the houseboat named “Pond’s Lodge,” on which Ray, Bonnie and their 3 daughters spent weekends and summers together exploring inland Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands and Canadian waters. On those adventures he taught his girls how to fish, sail, row, tie knots, set a crab pot, dig for clams, identify species of sea life, and other important life skills. (He also attempted to teach us math, though none of us could keep up with him.)
His boat building culminated in the building of the Marine Vessel “Tomorrow,” a 50+ foot Trimaran sailboat on which he and Bonnie lived, laughed, and loved until her passing in 1995. They sailed as often as they could, including to Alaska, competed successfully in predicted log races (earning the title of North American Champion at least once), and led clean-up efforts along the coastlines with local high school science classes and 4-H groups.
In 1998 Ray moved to Driggs, Idaho. He and his longtime companion, Donna Molinelli volunteered in the community, visited with friends at the Senior Center, skied together well into their 80s, and enjoyed life in the Teton Valley. Ray served on several community boards to improve life in the valley, and in 2019 he and Donna were both honored as Seniors of the Year. Ray continued to build in Driggs, this time building a house. Like the boats, every detail was intentional and thoughtful, and the house was often filled with family, his extended family, interesting conversations, and love.
In the spring of 2022 Ray and Donna both moved to the Lincoln Court Retirement Community in Idaho Falls, where new friendships were made and where family and friends continue to visit.
Ray loved fishing, boating, sailing, windsurfing, skiing, problem-solving, watching critters, fixing almost anything (especially if it involved epoxy) and enjoying time with his family and extended family. At the time of his passing, he had just finished authoring a chapter in a book entitled “Four Boats, Built in their Back Yards” by Jack Vander Waal, scheduled to be published this fall.
We are all so very proud of his accomplishments. But we are even more proud of the person he was.
He was brilliant beyond comprehension and humble beyond words. We will always be grateful for his kindness to his family and friends, his ability to reason and teach respectfully, his treatment of all people as valuable humans regardless of gender, race or religion, his appreciation for a good clean joke, his ability to laugh at himself, his care for the planet, his love of learning, and for his humility.
The last boat Ray built, the “Tomorrow” now serves as a marine biology research vessel, studying the language of orcas around the world. She is set to sail to the South Pacific soon for more research in the coming weeks.
To our Ray….Dad, Grandfather, Brother, Companion, Friend, Mentor, we say: Rest well; you have certainly earned it. You have left a legacy beyond description. A life well lived; a job well done. Rest well. It’s time to set sail. The sun will come out….Tomorrow.