Ray Helmer Godfrey


It is with intense sorrow and pain that I proclaim the passing of my dear husband and cherished friend, Ray Helmer Godfrey, 81, of Marion, Mont., Jan. 19, 2021, after a courageous five-year battle with cancer. He was the love of my life for 31 years, retired veteran and unwavering patriot.

Ray was born in Greybull, Wyo., in 1939, adopted by William Justin and Myrtle Helmer Godfrey of Cowley, Wyo. Still a teen, Ray joined the U.S. Navy, where he got his GED, served aboard the USS Noble (APA-18), and went on to successfully complete Naval Nuclear Power School, which had a 50% dropout rate. He served as a machinist’s mate aboard the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVAN-65) from 1961 to1966. He fulfilled 10 years in the Navy as an MM1 and finished his active military service with his final 10 years in the Air Force as an avionics navigations systems technician. With addition of reserve duty, he retired in 1979.

Westinghouse Electric hired Ray in 1978 due to his "Navy Nuke" status. He worked at the Nevada Test Site and was in management as a senior engineer at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico, where he met me, his wife and life partner, Edith (Dee) Armstrong. He retired from Westinghouse in 1999.

After retiring the second time, we moved to the east coast, where he volunteered as curator at the Naval Historical Foundation (NHF), responsible for care, cataloging and distribution of the extensive NHF naval artifact collection, 2007-2012. It was a job he loved dearly. He often said how honored he was to be given the opportunity by the NHF to, on occasion, personally complete tasks for ADM James L. Holloway III, third Commanding Officer of CVAN-65 (and thus Ray’s shipmate), 20th Chief of Naval Operations, and Chairman Emeritus of the Foundation. 

He remained in contact with the many commanding officers of USS Enterprise and continued to serve his beloved ship for decades. He raised thousands of dollars to help establish the Enterprise Historical Room aboard ship in 2000. As a "plankowner" (commissioning crew member), he was on “the Big E’s” first deployment in 1962 and was honored as a guest of the CO (Captain’s Tiger) on the last leg of the ship's 25th and final deployment in 2012. Invited as a plankowner to represent the thousands of men and women who served in Enterprise during her unprecedented 51 years of active service, he attended the ship's decommissioning ceremony in 2017, congratulating each member of the final crew with a special commemorative coin.

Ray was smart, compassionate, honest, humble, and creative, with the brilliance of an engineer's passion to make things better in every aspect of his life. Never having built a house previously, Ray designed and built Fox Lodge in Gerrardstown, West Virginia, a 6,000-square-foot masterpiece, making our dream of a log home come true. He designed and engineered a five-foot-square firepit in the great room, an engineering effort worthy of a patent. He also oversaw the construction of Sky High, our mountain home in Colorado. 

We worked together on every project, the perfect team, totally dedicated to each other and whatever mission we tackled. 

Ray is survived by me, his wife, Dee, of Marion, Mont.; step-daughter, Meredith Doubrava of Jacksonville, Fla.; son-in-law, Steven Doubrava of Brunswick, Ga.; grandchildren, Andrew, Ethan Ray, and Adelyn Doubrava, all of Brunswick, Ga.; daughter, Tina Donnelly and her children and grandchildren; niece, Barbara Bradford (Tony) of Boise, Idaho, and their two children; and niece, Sandra Asbe (Doug) of Lynnwood, Wash., and their two children. He was predeceased by his infant son and brother, Ben. 

I extend my eternal gratitude to the team of nurses at the out-patient infusion room at Kalispell Regional Hospital for the highest level of care given to both Ray and me. Special appreciation goes to Dr. Ryan Roop, his oncologist, and Dr. Margie Albers, who stood by me during the heartbreaking ordeal of Ray's passing. She treated the person and not just the patient.

God willing, a military memorial service will take place on private property in early summer, with the possibility of an online stream of the ceremony. Details will be mailed to invitees in the spring.

In lieu of flowers, friends and family are encouraged to donate in Ray’s name to his beloved Naval Historical Foundation at www.navyhistory.org