After graduating from Mt. Pleasant High School, Ray enlisted in the Army Air Corps where he flew 38 combat missions as a ball turret gunner in B24’s. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, silver and gold oak leaf clusters and the Certificate of Valor. After the war, Ray attended URI and obtained a law degree from BU. He clerked for RI Legal Aid and always praised his early mentors. Ray continued to handle numerous cases pro bono after establishing his own law practice.
Early in his career, Ray and Bill Gunning founded Gunning and LaFazia which became a leading litigation firm. During his six-decade career he handled complex civil matters, many setting legal precedent in personal injury, insurance coverage, workers comp and admiralty law. A Dean of the RI Bar, he was known for his legal acumen, trial successes, stamina and his civility and respect for his profession.
He will be best remembered as a mentor who gave generously and selflessly of his time, skills and experience. Among those who credit career success to his tutelage are members of the state and federal judiciary, leaders of the Bar, a former governor, and president of a local hospital.
In the early 1980’s, Gunning and LaFazia was comprised of 25 percent women when other litigation firms had none. He served as a Bar Examiner and as a member of the Advisory Comm. on Rules, US Ct Appeals. He was a recipient of the Ralph P. Semonoff Award for Professionalism and a lifetime member of the RI Bar Foundation.
At 53, Ray embraced bicycling and toured much of the continental US, the Baja and Great Britain. He cycled up Mount Evans, Mount Washington, and Mount Rainier. He hosted the Narragansett Bay Wheelmen’s “Polar Bear” bicycle ride for 35 years. At age 75, Ray bicycled 500 miles through the mountains of Montana. Even in his last year he could be seen riding his bicycle from home to the gym still living the principles of discipline and determination that defined so much of his life. An avid gardener and landscaper he loved working in his yard, spending time with family and his dogs.
He is survived by wife, Ellen, son Raymond Alan, daughter Jeanne and her husband George Mason. He also leaves a brother George and wife Virginia, sisters Catherine Deion and husband Joe, Lois Guilford and husband Earle, and many nieces, nephews and cousins. He was predeceased by his parents, Emil and Anna ( Peloso ) Lafazia, Helen ( Jones ) LaFazia, sister Dorothy Danella ( husband Jimmy) and daughter-in-law Dale Dwyer.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend a Mass of Christian Burial on Saturday at 9 a.m. in St. Kevin’s Church, 333 Sandy Lane, Warwick and may call at the Nardolillo Funeral Home & Crematory, 1278 Park Ave., Cranston on Friday from 3-7 p.m. Interment, with military honors, will take place in the R.I. Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Exeter.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Hope HealthCare Services, 9470 HealthPark Circle, Ft. Meyers FL 33908 or Forever Paws Animal Shelter, 300 Lynwood St. Fall River, MA 02721
Visit www.nardolillo.com for online condolences.