Ray Hinz died this week. Bernadette sent us an email today. We had called and told him goodbye the morning we left, knowing that this would be the last time we would talk to him this side of heaven. Earlier we had arranged to go in person but we ran out of time and had to settle for a phone call. It was surprisingly emotional for me and I struggled to tell him how I felt about him. I think he knew. We promised to pray for each other regardless of where we were. He joked that he would come to the fund raiser next summer. Rory and I regretted not being able to see him in person, but knew that it would have been even more difficult.
Ray was (is) very special to both of us, a second father. Almost from the time we returned to East Lansing from Thailand eleven years ago he has been a significant figure in our lives. I first met Ray in a St. Thomas Aquinas men’s group at least ten years ago. He was a charter member of the Catholic book group that began the following year. We were part of his several philosophy groups, trying to make up for lost time and absorb everything we could from Mortimer Adler and Thomas Aquinas. I admit to being frustrated with him when he decided he couldn’t make it to the book group anymore, feeling that he was quitting too soon. We would still get together periodically, touching base, keeping him informed, hearing about his family, getting his advice.
Ray’s story was an interesting one to us. He had gone to the University of Detroit, majoring in philosophy, one of his lifelong passions. (He had others, too: his faith, his family, architecture, painting.) After the war and school he became part of the Catholic Worker, where he met Barbara, living and working on the CW farm near South Lyon. I gathered that The Worker’s austere ways became a bit much for young married life when children came along. Ray took a job with the State and they moved on. The Grail was a big part of their lives for a while, but they began to drift away spiritually as family and job concerns became primary. I am a little fuzzy on the details of Ray’s return to the faith years later. As I recall, it occurred in the time frame of heart surgery, a lengthy trip to Europe, and an association with that STA men’s group that included (the future Father) Steve Mattson. I know it was one of his sorrows that Barbara did not share his newly-recovered ardor for the faith.
I have never met an older Catholic so spiritually alive, so intent on making up for lost time. And what an acute, wide-ranging mind! We could talk for hours, the conversation never flagging. He continually discussed how to increase the life of the Church or foster more interest and knowledge of philosophy, always full of plans and zeal, a true missionary. I know of at least five or six groups that he organized and led, including one for his grandkids and their friends. Even in his last months when he had real health issues, he didn’t stop, organizing and leading a Great Books group at Independence Village. Rory and I would tell each other that we wanted to be like Ray when we grew up. Even as his body increasingly gave out on him, he retained his characteristic sharpness, wit, and charm to the end, qualities for which I will always remember him. At one of our last visits, he tried to talk us out of going to East Timor. He thought there was more than enough to do in Detroit! He showed off his terrific watercolors and talked with Rory about how to get back into painting, offering her book titles and advice.He was one of the most socially adept people I know. He was generous and affirming, always putting things in their best light. He had a energizing effect on people; I always felt better for any time I spent with him. Fr. Mark sent me an email that I will take the liberty of quoting from:
I had a wonderful conversation with him before he died. In
thirty years of priesthood, I have never met a man so anxious for
heaven. He was truly going home! He taught many people how to live
and he taught many people how to die. My passion for the faith and my
ministry is stronger having spent that afternoon with him.
He would probably be embarrased that I’ve written this post. I would have to explain to him that even though it is woefully inadequate, it is the only way I know to honor him and his life. I wish we could be there tomorrow to swap stories with his family and friends, to share our grief and memories with the book group and the philosophy group. That we love him and shall miss him, there is no doubt. He leaves a big hole, with no one on the horizon to take his place. Our consolation and confidence is that he is with his Lord and Barbara and has probably made appointments to speak with St. Thomas, Mortimer Adler, and Fr. Neuhaus. We are confident that he will keep his promise to pray for us. Ray, requiescat in pace. [posted by David]
For those who may not have seen it and are interested, here is the obituary from the LSJ.