Raymond E. Fender (Ray), age 96, of West Goshen Twp. passed away peacefully on September 16, 2021 with his wife of 56 years by his side. He lived a full and healthy life; fit and active nearly to the very end of his life. It was just after Christmas that his health began to seriously falter. He died at home in the house he built.
He lived April 14, 1925 to September 16, 2021. Ray's business was building construction and his passion was flying. He and wife, Barbara raised two children.
Ray was the last survivor of siblings Bill, Thelma, Earle and John, and parents Louis and Anna. He grew up in Collingdale, Jenkintown and Stone Harbor and his youth was spent building model airplanes, home made boats, and he was a local marbles champion. He left home at age 16 to attend The Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades on full scholarship, as all Williamson Men have. He was forever thankful and loyal to Williamson and the friendships he made there endured a lifetime. In the midst of World War II his class was permitted to "graduate" early in order to join the fight. Ray did this and was accepted into the Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Corps, and graduated as a pilot and second lieutenant in class 44J. He had qualified in the P-51 Mustang and was awaiting orders to the Pacific Theatre when the war ended. With the conclusion of the war Ray returned to civilian life but remained as a reservist in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard until his military retirement 28 years later.
Following the war Ray became a flight instructor and manager of the former Valley Forge Airport, but it was his time at Williamson which prepared him for his life's work as a builder, which he continued well into his 70's.
Until his mandatory retirement from the military in 1973, his duties with the Air Guard was nearly a second full-time second job, aside from his construction business. He flew jet fighter/interceptors every weekend and often weekdays after work. He loved it and often commented, "I would have PAID THEM to fly." When his unit, Group 111, moved to Willow Grove NAS, they were given new aircraft and a new mission: flying transport aircraft world-wide. This was quite disappointing to a real "fighter pilot," but there was a silver-lining. They also received flight-nurses, and Ray met and married the chief flight nurse, Barbara Bird, and they flew many missions together, traveling the globe.
Aside from flying with the Guard, Ray's primary pursuit was the construction business. It began as Valley Forge Builders, to eventually become Raymond E. Fender Co., Inc.. He began with his participation in the great post-war building boom, building single family homes. This grew into Industrial/commercial design and construction, ultimately becoming a developer of his own properties. He built his business as he built a family, and he instilled in his children the best of American values, the same which guided his business. No one ever knew him to raise his voice in anger or to have ever had an enemy. He led by example and many of his business dealings were sealed with a simple handshake. Ray wasn't just a manager of employees, he was a working builder proud to call himself a Tradesman. He worked out on the job well into his 70's. At 89, when he wanted a small addition to his workshop, he poured the concrete, framed it up and finished it himself.
Ray was an active civilian pilot after retirement from the Air Guard. He was an early member of the Cloudniners glider club, and loved giving anyone a ride in his Piper Cherokee Six. He was a part of a small group of pilots that saved the West Chester/Brandywine Airport from closure - pooling their resources to buy back the airport and save it from becoming another industrial park. His concern for the erosion of American ideals and a creeping socialism was perhaps his largest concern, and was often the topic of conversation. It gave him some satisfaction that every year, for a period of ten years he was able to donate a little book to every 8th grade student in the West Chester School District which contained a copy of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and biographies of Our Founding Fathers.
Like so many that live as long as he did, he out-lived most all of his old friends, and all of his family from his generation. In his latter years his last cadre of friends he would see regularly were those he met for coffee at the ACAC Fitness Center, "The Mixed Nuts," their group was called. A nice group of people; the ACAC staff too.
A world traveler, he loved the many European river cruises he and Barbara would take - almost as much as his favorite pastime: watching/following the Philadelphia Eagles Football team.
Ray is survived by wife, Barbara; son, Craig; daughter, Karen and husband Michael D'Allaird; grand-children, Alexander and Olivia D'Allaird.
Arrangements by DellaVecchia, Reilly, Smith & Boyd Funeral Home of West Chester, PA 610.696.1181 www.DellaFH.com