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SC Rewind: Happy Mother's Day

Published: May 12, 2018 9:36 am ET

Last Comment: May 16, 2018 9:34 am ET | 3 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's 'Rewind,' Robert Smith has penned a special piece in honour of Mother's Day which is officially celebrated on Sunday, May 13 this year. His story tells of a very dedicated mother within harness racing circles who raised a rather large family on her own. She showed what tremendous stamina and endurance a mother can muster when called upon. He also sends out a Mother's Day greeting to the reading audience.

Ruth Wray and her young daughter Joanne appear in the winner's circle at the Barrie Fairgrounds in this 1956 photo. Mrs. Wray was on hand to see her fine three-year-old pacing filly Miller's Ann score a victory for driver Murray Waples. The filly was named after late husband Miller Wray and her daughter Joanne. This picture was used for a number of years following this time as the front of the annual race program at the Barrie Fair races (Photo courtesy of Wray family)

Each year when Mother's Day rolls around I try to write something topical and hopefully interesting for the Rewind audience. I think most other years I have covered the topic in a rather general fashion; this year I have the story of a very special mother and her name is Ruth Wray. Although she left us a number of years ago her story is a shining example of just how strong and resilient a mother can be.

Back in 1952 Miller Wray and his wife Ruth were relative newlyweds, just starting out on what would surely be a long and happy life together. They were already the proud parents of five beautiful young children, all set to enjoy the joys of farm living and growing up in a horsey atmosphere. For several years Miller Wray had followed the harness racing circuit near his Schomberg, Ont. home area. He came by his rather intense interest in the sport in a very traditional way, through his father. In those days most of the racing action was at the fairs and that is where everyone congregated.

Ben Boy as a two-year-old in 1952 with owner Miller Wray at his head with Peter Miller in the sulky at Thorncliffe Park (Michael Burns)

Already by 1952 the Wray family had found a very special horse and he was a trotter to boot. A first class trotter had emerged from the family farm and his name was BEN BOY. In a sport that did not yet encourage the racing of young horses to the extent it later would, Mr. Wray had charted out a special course for his youngster at the age of two. At season's end Ben Boy was getting to be quite widely known. In his freshman season he had already established some impressive credentials. He proudly wore the title "Canadian record two-year-old trotter." The future was bright indeed.

In March of 1953 fate was to deal a crushing blow to the young couple. Miller Wray died suddenly at the age of just 29. Left along with his widow were three sons -- Jack, Tom and Pete -- along with two daughters -- Sharon and Joanne. The oldest was ten, and the youngest just two months.

Mrs. Wray was obviously distraught but also resolved to carry on. A big part of her forward plan was to remain in the business of raising and racing horses despite the advice of some who encouraged her to dispose of all of the horses.

Owner Ruth Wray proudly receives a silver tray earned by her fine trotting performer Ben Boy. A mud splattered Keith Waples stands by following the victory. (Wray family photo)

As Ben Boy turned three, an old family friend entered the scene and would be a major factor in the years to come. Keith Waples, a boyhood friend of the late Mr. Wray, took over the training and driving duties of Ben Boy and many others that followed. Keith and Miller Wray had travelled that fair circuit mentioned above and that friendship would now pay dividends.

Ruth Wray remained a pillar of strength for many years, managing the farm and retaining her interest in horses. She and her husband originally had two pieces of farm property and in 1964 she left the original site and built a home on the other. She also did a credible job at her main job which was raising her family. She truly showed how strong a mother can be.

In a recent conversation Joanne Wray shared a few of her thoughts and fond memories of her mother and I have displayed them below. I would like to thank her for the loan of pictures and other assistance in preparing this story. A fine lady remembered.

"Mom was born on May 12, 1919 and died December 23, 1995 at the age of 76. She stayed involved and enjoyed the horses until then. Of course she didn’t have much choice because all her children were involved and had a passion for the sport. ​ She attended the races as much as she could. She took us kids with her whenever possible. I’m sure she would have loved to go to the races every time she had one racing but it wasn’t that easy to get a babysitter for the five of us. Every once in a while she and a few friends would take a road trip to Montreal’s Blue Bonnets Raceway to watch one of her horses race. Those were exciting times for her.

"My sister and I often talk of how strong a person she was. Mom was confined to a wheel chair in her mid 40’s. She managed the hand she was dealt in life as best she could and tried not to worry or dwell on the negative things. Amazingly enough, she always had a positive outlook on life and enjoyed it to the fullest.

"Happy Mother’s Day to All,
Joanne Wray"

I would like to extend a very special greeting to all Mothers today. HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!

Who Is It?

Can you correctly name the two individuals on the left presenting the silver tray to Mrs. Wray? I am certain of the identity of one gentleman and could use some assistance on the other.

May 16, 2018 - 9:34 amThis week's photo featured

This week's photo featured two very long serving individuals shown making a trackside presentation at Old Woodbine. On the far left was Mr. Hugh Proudfoot of Fort Coulonge Quebec. Second from left was Hal B. Watson a noted racing journalist from Toronto. Both men served the sport for many years and were highly respected.

May 12, 2018 - 6:06 pmA fantastic role model for

A fantastic role model for everyone, that was Ruth Wray! It must have been very difficult for Mrs. Wray to raise her young family after the passing of her husband Miller but she never complained and went on with life. She deserves respectful recognition at any time and especially during this time of year, Mother's Day.

Happy Mother's Day to all Mothers. Thank you for your care and guidance.

Keep these SC Rewinds coming Robert ....they are informative, incisive and illuminating.

The man holding the fedora in the picture is Hugh Proudfoot, former President CTA and former MP.

May 12, 2018 - 1:45 pmGreat job Robert. Wonderful

Great job Robert.
Wonderful Memories and very very fitting for Mothers Day. I did meet Mrs Wray and worked with Joanne at Barrie Raceway in 1973. I think we called Joanne's job "The CTA Lady" Joanne did a great job and of course has continued in our Industry for Years as Joanne's Staking Service.
I believe it was 1974 or 1975, early in the start of the Ontario Sire Stakes, that Joanne had a 2 yr old Trotting Filly that won an OSS at Barrie Raceway in a record time of something like 2:12 or 2:14. On a fast track.
Oh how things have changed.

Happy Mothers Day to all.

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