Back in 2005, when Steve Brandy was at interviewing Dick Durbin, he was called to the side to answer a phone call. On the other end was Tony Ray, who was on the air at .
"He put me live on the air asking me what the lunch special was at Al's Steakhouse," Brandy said. "He was just such a humorous guy."
Brandy told all of the listeners the special and went back to the news event. When Brandy returned to the station, though, he brought a to-go box of the special of the day back for Ray.
Tony Ray, who had retired from WJOL and until recently had been executive director of Forest Park Community Center, died on Friday night. By Saturday morning, his Facebook page had turned into a virtual memorial for the man.
Joliet resident Sandy Gerrettie worked in radio for 30 years, including at WJOL-AM (1340).
"I worked with him at WJOL for years and we became fabulous friends, she said. "I also worked with him at Forest Park Community Center.
"I am heart-broken."
On Saturday morning, Gerrettie was having a garage sale at her house. She had heard of Ray's death, when someone who resembled Ray stopped by the sale, she was moved her to tears.
"He looked so much like him, but I knew it wasn't him," she said.
Wayne Parratore, ad manager for Patch.com, also worked with Ray at WJOL.
"I worked with Tony for three years back in the WJOL/WLLI days," Parratore said. "(Ray) was doing JOL, mornings on JOL, he was kind of a young guy."
Parratore, who played on a softball and basketball team with Ray as part of a WJOL team, described him as bright and energetic.
Although Ray had retired from radio, he was in the news still in his role at the Forest Park Community Center. The center, on Joliet's East Side, was founded by Louis Ray, no relation, in 1990 as a place for kids to go to stay off the streets. Louis Ray was its only director until her death in 2009, when Tony Ray took over.
"For him to take over that organization when they needed him was just a wonderful thing," Brandy said. "He was just a real community organizer."
Debbie Greene, superintendent of Nature Center, worked with Ray on a number of community projects.
"He cared so much about the East Side of Joliet and especially the Forest Park Community Center," Greene said.
In February, the Herald News ran a story about the financial condition of the center and the failing health of Ray.
Gerrettie said she had seen him recently and his failing health was showing.
"We saw him not too long ago and he was in good spirits but he looked pretty bad," she said. "He had diabetes. ... He's been really sick."
Visitation services are set for 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 4 at on Richards Street in Joliet. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Sept, 5 at , 503 S. Water St., Joliet.
An obituary, including surviving family members was not yet available. An official cause of death was not released.