PALMER, ALASKA — Raymond Russell Thatcher was born at Roseland Community Hospital in Chicago, Illinois on March 1, 1937, to Russell Austin and Evelyn Marie Thatcher (Davis). They moved to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, living there through his graduation from high school where he met and married Susan Rae Hawver.
While attending college at Platteville, Wisconsin, Ray, and Susan welcomed their first born, Barbara. After graduation they moved to Tucson where Rusty was born, and Ray completed his teaching certification. His first two years of teaching were at General Myer Elementary School on Fort Huachuca, Arizona. The family then returned to Illinois to open a family business; a tire sales and retreading store and later selling sporting goods. During this time Krista was born.
In 1967, Arizona called Ray back to teaching in the small town of Bowie, Arizona, where he became the K-6 teaching principal, and taught 5th and 6th grade. Ray designed and implemented a summer learning program that included becoming the lifeguard and managing the Bowie Pool, providing classes for students in pottery, art, and reading skills. Nine years of country (desert) living with horses, chickens, hounds, and even a milk cow brought about another family business, this time a very successful truck stop restaurant, The Bowie Stage Stop.
Soon, child number four, Calaway, the bicentennial baby, was born and the family of six moved to Sierra Vista. Ray had accepted employment as a sheriff’s deputy with Sheriff Jimmy Judd and the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department. Ray was born a champion, filled with courage and compassion, and becoming a sheriff deputy, to serve and protect the people of Cochise County, was a perfect fit. His first assignment was in Willcox, Arizona, and later he was transferred to Miracle Valley, Arizona, close by his home in Hereford. Child number five, Carrie, arrived at the end of 1977.
In 1982, the cult group, inhabiting parts of Miracle Valley, began causing trouble in and around the community. A shootout occurred between this group, the Sheriff’s Department, and The Department of Public Safety. The story of this event has been captured in two books by William R. Daniel, “Shootout at Miracle Valley” followed by the sequel, “The Search for Justice.” Ray’s picture, taken during the event, is on the covers of both books.
After the shootout, Ray was assigned to horseback patrol of the Arizona/Mexico border to prevent burglaries of nearby ranches.
During his lifetime, Ray had many articles published in a variety of outdoors and sporting goods magazines, including Guns and Ammo, American Rifleman, and Field and Stream. Ray trained many sheriff’s deputies and civilians in firearms safety.
Ray passed away in Palmer, Alaska on December 31, 2021, at the Pioneer Retirement Home surrounded by his Arizona and Alaskan family. It was an incredibly special and deeply moving time as each family member, young and old, came to whisper their tearful goodbyes and he felt loved and cherished until the very last minute. He leaves behind his former wife Susan, adult children Barbara Gerard (Joe), Krista Van Soest (Mike), Calaway Thatcher (Coreen), Carrie Taylor (Eric), and Rusty’s widow, Liz Thatcher as well as ten grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Ray was filled with a charismatic charm. Ray had a special way of bringing out the best in people, inspiring students, members of the community, friends, and family to dream big dreams and strive to make them come true. Ray’s loving, teasing personality will be missed by all of his family as well as anyone he ever interacted with. Ray’s parents, as well as his brother George Thatcher, and his son Rusty, preceded him in death. There will be a family celebration of his life in Hereford, Arizona followed by internment of his cremains at Bowie Cemetery in Bowie, Arizona on Memorial Day weekend 2022.