Aime Raymond “Ray” Bessette, of Naples, FL, formerly of Ridgefield, died on February 17, 2013 in Naples Florida.
He was born June 29, 1930 in Holyoke, Massachusetts to Annette Turcotte Bessette and Aime Onisime Bessette. As a boy, he visited his grandparents’ farm in Johnville, Quebec, Canada during the summers. He was an avid hockey player, learning as a child, and went on to play for Assumption Preparatory School from 1944-1948, as well as at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute, from 1948-1952, as a college player.
He received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from RPI, and then attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received his M.S. in Industrial Management from the Sloan School of Business, in 1954, where he was a Sloan Fellow.
Following MIT, Ray began his business career at Dow Chemical Company in Midland, Michigan. At Dow, from 1954 to 1957, he worked in sales training, market research and planning. He then took a job at Olin Corporation, in New Haven, where he worked as assistant product sales manager, from 1958-1961.
In 1961 he and his family moved to Ridgefield, from Hamden, Connecticut. In 1961, Ray began his career on Wall Street. From 1961 until 1974 Ray was a partner at seven small investment banking firms, including Moore and Shley, Goldwater Valente Fitzpatrick and Shawl, and Rider Pine Kendall and Hollister.
In his early years on Wall Street, Ray’s main responsibilities were institutional research on pharmaceuticals and chemicals, and institutional sales. As an investment banker, Ray helped rehabilitate failing companies and nurture young ventures. One of the companies he helped was Metpath, by improving their management practices, setting up controls, and establishing funding and acquisitions that grew the company to a healthy sales volume of about $180 million at the time of its sale to Corning Glass. Later, the company was spun off as Quest Diagnostics.
Ray served on the boards of directors of many companies during his business career. He was chairman of the board of G & O Manufacturing, (New Haven) from 1967 to 1969, while a partner in a Wall Street firm. He also served on the boards of Tolchin Instruments, Schreiber and Sohne (Germany), Buffet-Crampon (France), Educational Technology, Metpath, Inc., and Buxton’s. From 1972 to 1973, Ray was President and CEO of Network Cinema. He left this position to go back to Wall Street to work at DuPont Walston and Company, where he reported directly to Ross Perot.
In 1974 Ray retired from Wall Street and dedicated his time to the founding and building of the Ridgefield Skating Center. Ray built the rink in order to pursue his dream of developing a skating program for the youth of Ridgefield. He spent many weekends with his brother-in-law, Roland Tremblay, assembling the boards, laying the floor, constructing the hut, and painting the facility.
Being a dedicated hockey player, Ray was part of the Ridgefield Men’s Hockey Association until age 65. He helped many young men develop their skills in hockey, and several went on to play in college, the AHL and the NHL. Ray was well known to the skating community as the colorful manager of the Skating Center. He gave local boys jobs as “Skate Guards” taking tickets and working around the rink. His son, Andre, was a travel player through the skating program and eventually went on to Deerfield Academy to play the sport.
In addition to managing the Skating Center, Ray was also involved in St Mary Parish, and the Knights of Columbus. He served on the Ridgefield Board of Education as a six-year member, and as a business advisor to several local companies.
Ray married Doris Anne Brodeur, from Southbridge, MA in 1953, while a student at MIT. Doris was a loving wife and mother, and predeceased him 24 years ago. They raised four daughters and a son: Denise Bessette Schneeberger of Cortlandt Manor, NY, an actress and producer, Mimi Bessette, of New York City, an actress and singer, Dr. Janelle Bessette, of Ridgefield, a psychologist in the Ridgefield Public Schools, Jocelyn Bessette Gorlin, of Hopkins, MN, a nurse practitioner and doctoral student in nursing at the University of Minnesota, and Dr. Andre Bessette, of Woodstock, CT, a psychologist at Day Kimball Hospital.
In 1989, Ray married Patricia O’Gorman, of Ridgefield. Nine years after their marriage, Ray sold the Skating Center and they moved to Naples, FL. They enjoyed year round living in Naples. Ray kept busy pursuing his hobbies: playing tennis, swimming, and riding his bike around Pelican Bay.
In his retirement, Ray also enjoyed following the world business markets and managing his stock portfolio. He will be missed by their many friends in Naples.
Ray is survived by his wife, Patricia, of Naples FL, his five children, 11 grandchildren: Aaron and Lilah Schneeberger, of New York, Dylan, Aimee and Nick Manderlink, of Ridgefield, Adeline, Rachel and Rebecca Gorlin of Minneapolis, Nathalie, Yvie and Henri Bessette of Woodstock, two sons- in- law: Paul Schneeberger and Dr. Jed Gorlin, a daughter in law, Donna Bessette, two sisters, Constance Broughear of Belchertown, MA, and Muriel Hovaniec of Raleigh, NC, and a brother, Gerald Bessette of Mannheim, Germany. His sister Jacqueline St Cyr predeceased him. He is also survived by many nieces and nephews.
Ray will be memorialized on May 11th at 10:00 am in Southbridge, MA, at Notre Dame Church and his cremated remains will be buried alongside Doris at the church’s cemetery. A memorial ceremony will also be held at the Wintergarden Ice Arena, (formerly the Ridgefield Skating Center), on April 6, at 1pm.
A scholarship fund is being established in memory of A. Raymond Bessette through the Ridgefield Amateur Hockey Association. If you would like to make a donation in Ray’s memory, please contact Kathy Ludwig, at [email protected] or Ted Tregurtha, Treasurer, RAHA, [email protected]