Friend and Fellow S&W Collector (1953-2009)
Ray was born in LaCrosse, KS. He graduated from Great Bend, KS, High School in 1971, and then attended Fort Hays (KS) State University where he graduated with a Bachelors' degree in Accounting. During high school and college, Ray worked for a local Great Bend accounting firm. After graduating from the University, he became a Certified Public Accountant and later established his own accounting firm, Ray A. Cheely, Chartered. On June 26, 1976, he married Sheryl Aumiller; they were married 33 years. Ray was a very active person who was involved with many other entrepreneurial endeavors as well, including banking, an oil-field trucking service and, at one time, a motorcycle sales and service business. In addition to gun collecting, his life interests included motorcycling, building and driving drag-racing cars, 4-wheeling and, of course, shooting.
Ray was a faithful member of the S&WCA from 1982-2009, having served on its Board of Directors, as President and then as Treasurer of the Association. He was one of the first Life Members of the S&WCA and had attended 23 straight Association Annual Meetings, through the Sturbridge (2008) meeting, having won awards for some of his displays at these Meetings. He missed attending the 2009 Troy Meeting due to health issues. Ray was instrumental in the formation and administration of the un-official "South West Bunch" of S&WCA members who now meet on a regular basis in conjunction with the Wanenmacher Tulsa Arms Show twice a year. Ray and Sheryl formed the Smith & Wesson Historical Foundation, the goal of which is to preserve Smith & Wesson's factory documents for all current & future S&W collectors. Ray had rare leadership, financial and management skills which he freely applied in putting the SWCA on a very sound financial footing, as well as recruiting individuals who would serve the S&WCA and perform their functions with zeal and dedication thereby insuring the smooth running of the Association for years; his endeavors have been and are gratefully appreciated by active members of the Association.
Ray possessed a great wealth of knowledge about S&W collecting which he eagerly and willingly shared with every interested collector. His specialty was "S&W Hand Ejectors; he arguably had the finest collection of S&W .357 Registered Magnums in existence. He also had an extensive collection of S&W "Triplelock" and other HE models from 1899 through the early 1950s as well as many pieces of important S&W memorabilia. Ray was noted for only collecting S&W’s of the highest quality, his motto being: "The three most important considerations in collecting are: Condition, Condition and Condition," although he would relax that rule for pieces of historical importance, such as "prototype" pieces and those which were owned by historically significant individuals. This principle caused many in the S&W collecting world to refer to a older S&W firearm of new condition to be of "Cheely Quality" (as close to 100% as possible). Those who were fortunate enough to visit Ray and his collection will attest to these statements.
There is no doubt that Ray Cheely will be greatly missed by all who knew him and will be very difficult to replace within the Smith & Wesson Collectors Association, as well as the gun collecting fraternity at large.