“All the people who died, died; they were all my friends and they died.” Jim Carroll Band, 1978.
Now that my somewhat macabre headline has your attention – by the way, it’s a truly great song if there are any rock ‘n rollers out there who haven’t heard it – I’ve decided to continue the theme of NBAR #1, and reminisce about some other folks I will never see again -- in our hobby or in my lifetime. I know we all have friends in the hobby who have departed, and by reminiscing about them, we help assure their immortality for at least one brief moment in time.
Raymond N. Merena hired me in May, 1987 to work at Bowers and Merena Galleries in Wolfeboro, NH. It was my first shot at numismatics on a large commercial scale, and a totally different world than I first experienced in Van’s shop in Tempe, Arizona eight years earlier.
I owe my entire professional career – 1987-present -- to Ray Merena, who hired me based on a few interviews and several written tests, and helped move my family of three to New Hampshire, where a year later we became a family of four!
Ray was always the quiet half of the Bowers and Merena duo, the behind-the-scenes guy who ran the business while Dave ran the numismatic end of things. That’s not to say Ray was not a numismatist; he knew coins as well as anyone and for one brief moment in time, he had a business under his own name before becoming partners with Dave Bowers.
He once told me I needed to “specialize” in one series, or in “25 years you’ll be sitting in a corner with a green visor on your head and someone will say ‘that’s Frank, he knows a little bit about everything, but not one series in depth.’” (That’s a true quote – I never took Ray’s advice, but now, all these years later, I know a little bit more about everything…lol.)
I traveled to many conventions in the ‘80s and ‘90s with Ray and his lovely wife, Pat, and though all business 9 to 5, once the tie was loosened Ray was a fun guy. He would tell stories at dinner of the early days in the ‘60s when he was at Paramount, talking softly as he swirled his Manhattan, cherry and all, in his rocks glass. Ray was also a man of many hidden talents – he was a world-class jazz pianist and the proud owner of George Gershwin’s piano!
Ray retired in 2000 and moved south with Pat to be near their grandkids. He passed away a few years back and a well-attended memorial service was held in Wolfeboro, NH. Between speakers at the service, a jazz band made up of Ray’s friends and companions, for which he played piano, played sweet Dixieland music from the church loft.
Before the services I got to tell Pat how much Ray meant to me. Ray Merena was a remarkable guy, one of those love him or hate hem kind of guys, but he was always fair with me, so I guess I’d have to list Raymond N. Merena in the former category. I still miss the guy.
See ya at NBAR #3!