Sunday, May 19, 2024

Remembering Danny Raymond

Episode 423

April 2, 2023


I was stunned when I heard the news about my good friend Danny Raymond dying in a traffic accident. I asked if this was the Danny Raymond I knew and unfortunately it was he.

Almost immediately my mind switched to remembrance mode of some of the shared moments I was able to have with Danny. In 1982 as a high school freshman, he became a member of the Caribou FFA, the student organization for agriculture education. If my memory serves me right, he was a four-year student of mine.

Several times I gave Danny a ride home to his East Presque Isle Road home after he took part in some afterschool FFA activities. He had recently lost his father Albert at age 16 and lived with his mom. They did not have much money, yet Danny had saved up enough money to buy a dirt bike, a Suzuki RM 125. Was he proud of his bike and equally pleased that he used his own money for the purchase.

A 1972 or ’73 Chevy C-10 long bed pickup was in the picture; I cannot remember if the truck followed the bike or vice versa. I called his Industrial Arts teacher, Eugene Robbins now living in Greenwood, Indiana. When traveling to the National FFA Convention at Indy, Gene and his Debbie hosted a cookout for the Caribou FFA members at their home for several years. It became one of the group’s highlights of convention week.

The FFA crew at the home of Gene Robbins, Greenwood, Indiana after the cookout for the members. In chair left Gene Robbins, in white Shelby Raymond and Gabby Cyr Maine FFA Association State President. Row two on left Casey Cote Caribou FFA Advisor, Stephen Kinney, Tyler Raymond, Cindy Ketch, former Caribou FFA Advisor Tom Hale, Bryce McClay State FFA Vice President, Spencer St. Peter and Dan Raymond. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Danny and his wife Shelby were chaperones. I heard he and Gene laughing on the patio and listened in. Gene asked Danny if he remembered him scolding Danny when he did a wheelie with that motorcycle in front of the shops which were in the back of Caribou High School Industrial Arts/Agriculture building. We chuckled at the memory and Gene complemented Danny on his riding skills. He was so sad when he heard Danny had died saying, “Danny was one of my favorite students. He was very polite and well mannered”.

First meeting

Located in the center front row is the young Danny Raymond as I knew him when he was a high school agriculture/FFA member. As a chapter officer, he was selected to represent Caribou at the Washington Leadership Conference where he and fellow FFA members from Maine met Senator Cohen and learn leadership skills which helped move him from the reserved person he was to the outgoing man he became. (Aroostook Republican photo)

Later on Danny met with 2nd District Representative Snowe at her office in Washington. Left to right Matt Borden, Caribou, Larry Hammond, Easton, Danny Raymond, Caribou, and Steve Reder, Easton.  Dan went on to compete in several local, district and state level competitions. In high school he began to show his spirit of cooperation and volunteerism. He worked on the state winning Building Our American Community (BOAC) project which began a string of winning designs by his chapter. (Aroostook Republican photo)

Between years

Once Dan graduated from Caribou High School in 1985, he went to Wyoming Tech where he majored in autobody refinishing. WYO Tech as it is called had the reputation of training winners. Raymond went home and began work at Ray Harmon’s Garage on Hershel Street in Caribou. While he was working at Harmon’s I asked him to paint my new Bell Helmet red to match my race kart. Dan was certainly interested in racing karts and purchased a Wasp chassis and finished 7th in points with the Northern Karting Association (NKA) in 1985 getting to a couple races. More about that later.

I did not maintain a close relationship with him for a few years as our lives delved into work and family until the summer of 2011 when he and his son Tyler stopped at the FFA Farmstand in front of Caribou High School/Tech Center.

Dan introduced me to his son and mentioned that he wanted Tyler to take my agriculture class and get involved in the FFA because he had benefited much from his time with the FFA.

I remember telling him I was honored to get his son involved in the FFA so much so that I offered Tyler a job working at the FFA Farmstand starting immediately. Technically he was not in my class yet, however, we did not let something like an official enrollment date stand in our way.

Racing together

Danny was not afraid to try new things. He found out that Nate Anderson had a fully operational kart track, Thundering Valley in St. Albans, Maine which featured what are called cage sprint karts powered by the relatively new Briggs & Stratton Animal racing engine. Typical Danny, he purchased one of the top line karts at the track and brought Tyler to Thundering Valley to race.

Tyler’s mom, Shelby, spent many moments gritting her teeth and shielding her eyes as Tyler learned the ropes of racing on the paved track. Danny quickly picked up tips on making the kart handle as they raced the track on a regular basis.

Danny can be very persuasive when he wanted to be. Such was the case when he invited Thundering Valley owner Nate Anderson to put on a clinic for perspective kart racers in Aroostook County in winter of 2012 at Caribou High School.

Though not a very flattering photo of Spud Speedway owner Troy Haney getting into the Racing Farmer #77 owned by Raymond, he became convinced to give kart racing a try at his track Spud Speedway in Caribou. Haney put his money where his heart was, building a paved 1/5-mile track using the front stretch of the stock car track for the start/finish. The karts would run as part of his regular stock car racing schedule. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Of course, I had to have a kart since I had not raced karts since 1986 when we last ran the karts at Spud Speedway and in Canada with the New Brunswick/Quebec Series. I purchased a race ready kart from Nate Anderson. Since my pickup was small and had too many miles to risk driving to St. Albans, Danny insisted that we take his truck and pick up the new kart June 2013. Later that summer the kart track was finished, and racing karts once again when into action at the Caribou track this time with their own dedicated track. for what would be the third time (The ’92 and ’93 season saw a brief return of karts using the big track).

Tyler Raymond and Danny helping Gary Merritt strap into their race kart to give it a try on the 1/5-mile oval Several folks eventually purchased karts. After Spud Speedway closed to regular stock car racing in 2015, Northern Maine Karting Association (NMKA) was formed to sanction the races. NMKA ran for several seasons prior to Covid. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Following kart racing, Danny and Tyler purchased a couple antique Farmall tractors, rebuilt them, and began competing at tractor pulls with the Northern Maine Antique Tractor Club (NMATC) where they finished on the podium at most events. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Danny spent many hours working on the Northern Maine Antique Tractors Club winter project whereby a tractor would be restored and raffled with proceeds to benefit local charities. The work crew at Phil Collins maintenance facility in Fort Fairfield. (HTF Motorsports photo)

One of the last NMATC tractor pulls the Raymonds participated in at Westfield in 2019. Again, Covid put a crimp in the teams plans. (NMATC photo)

HTF Motorsports competes at Spud Speedway Pitstop Challenge as part of Thursdays Night on Sweden Street activity June 12, 2014. Dan was up for almost any motorsports activity. From front to back Tyler Raymond, Dana Morrell, yours truly on jack, Bob Hale hidden in this view with Danny Raymond ready to put on left front tire. Track owner, Troy Haney pacing in background.  (HTF Motorsports photo)

FFA tried and true volunteer

As mentioned earlier, Danny had approached me about his son Tyler getting involved in the FFA by taking my agriculture classes at Caribou Tech Center. What I got in the process was parental support that amazed me and resulted in what would turn out to be a lifelong friendship. It would be difficult to tell all that Danny and his wife Shelby contributed to the program over the years that Tyler was in the FFA. Here are a few.

Building the Caribou FFA Educational exhibit for the Northern Maine Fair became one of Danny’s favorite projects. Many hours went into each year’s entry. This one, “From Maine to the World” placed second. Dylan Greenier is pictured working with Raymond on the wiring. (Caribou FFA photo)

One area where I will miss Danny is the State FFA Ag Mechanics contest. Danny served as one of the judge/directors of the small engines portion of the event for 7 years. The day before he died, I had hand delivered the notes from a contest directors meeting to him at the fire station since he was working and unable to make the meeting. That was the last time I had a chance to talk with him. I cherish that conversation. Pictured with Dan at the State Contest 2013 held at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, Colby Johnson Maine State Secretary/Treasurer, Clay Sapp National FFA President, Raymond, and fellow Small Engine director Steve Belyea. (Caribou FFA photo)

Danny loved helping others. Another example of that was planting fresh lettuce for the Bread of Life Soup Kitchen in Caribou. Caribou FFA members built several raised bed containers, located them at the Soup Kitchen, and filled them with seedlings grown in their greenhouse for this purpose. Planting day came and of course Danny volunteered. Left to right Roxanne Griffeth Alley, Raymond, Tyler Raymond and Garrick Alley son of Roxanne. (Caribou FFA photo)

At the 2013 FFA State Convention at UMaine Orono, Danny was given the highest award that a state may bestow, the Honorary State FFA Degree. Previously he had received recognition at the Caribou Chapter level earning the Honorary Chapter degree. Presenting him with the State Degree is Graham Berry, Maine State FFA President. Fellow State Degree honoree Bart Bradbury awaits his turn. (Caribou FFA photo)

When asked if he and his wife would chaperone at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana he readily replied “Yes”. The group stayed at the beautiful Indiana FFA Association Leadership Center, Trafalgar, Indiana. Left to right Shelby and Danny Raymond, Stephen Kinney, Tyler Raymond, Casey Cote Caribou FFA’s new Advisor, Spencer St. Peter, Gabby Cyr, and Bryce McClay. (Caribou FFA photo)

Trips with Danny were always filled with good natured fun. He did not take himself too serious as attested by this photo at the fountain in front of the National FFA Center, Indianapolis, Indiana. The traditional Caribou FFA leap was performed by Spencer St. Peter, Stephen Kinney, Danny and Tyler Raymond. (Caribou FFA photo)

What’s a trip to Indianapolis without some motorsports action? USAC Silver Crown winners the Swanson brothers (both former Kingsburg, California FFA Presidents) rented a “slippery” kart track for one evening in the outskirts of Indianapolis. The surface was coated with soap to make it slippery. Caribou FFA and Kingsburg FFA members raced against the future USAC champs for the better part of two hours. Left to right Tanner Swanson, Colby Johnson, Danny Raymond, and Tyler Raymond. (Caribou FFA photo)

Of course, the County men had to show their displeasure with the Idaho Big Potato exhibit at the National FFA Convention Career Show. (Caribou FFA photo)

I am tempted to show more photos, however, I realize it is like watching home movies at Grandma’s house so let us stop here. Deep inside me, it is like I can prevent releasing him by showing more and more shots. I must say “Goodbye” for now my friend and journey on. You are a good man, Danny Raymond.

Danny’s funeral is later today at 2 pm at Caribou High School Gym where hundreds will be in attendance to honor him.

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Psalm 118:24)