THERE WAS that white-knuckled glider ride over the fields of Bucks County, and the terrifying drive high in the Italian Alps in the world's smallest car.
Life with Ray Jenkins could be an adventure, although, as longtime friend Dawn Dugan, put it, "Sitting in the living room with him could be an adventure."
That was because Ray Jenkins had a riotous sense of humor, was a great raconteur and a man who made it his life's work to know something about just about everything.
In addition, Ray endeared himself to people because he made those he came in contact with feel that he really cared about them and wanted to hear their stories.
Raymond A. Jenkins II, owner and operator of Toad-Ally Snax Inc., a Bristol-based maker of chocolate-covered pretzels, Air Force veteran and a man dedicated to his friends and employees, died March 29 of a heart attack. He was 68 and lived in Bristol.
After Ray's death a woman told Dawn how envious she was of Dawn's friendship with Ray.
"He listened to me," she told Dawn with an air of disbelief. "He was actually interested in what I had to say."
That was Ray. He was curious about everybody and everything.
There's an India-born operator of a 7-Eleven in Bristol, where Ray bought his chewing tobacco, who can attest to that. Ray pumped him for information about his homeland, and later brought a map of India to the store and got the man to show him where he came from.
Yes, Ray chewed tobacco, a habit Dawn thinks he picked up while playing football, either at Neshaminy High School, from which he graduated in 1964, or more likely the University of Pittsburgh, from which he graduated in 1968. A big guy, he played on the line.
While walking through the confections aisle of a market after Ray died, Dawn asked herself, "Now, what would Ray be doing?"
"He would be examining the way the products were placed, which occupied the more desirable upper shelves, and which were in the lower shelves, where children could spot them easily."
That was a big part of the candy business, which Ray had been involved with since he and his father, Raymond Alford Jenkins, started to make candy bars 40 years ago - seeing to it that the products were properly displayed. Ray would travel around the country, placing his pretzels with major supermarkets.
He also didn't hesitate to climb onto the machines in his factory and make repairs if needed.
Ray retired last year and let his younger sister, Darlette Jenkins, run the company.
"Ray praised her up and down," Dawn said. "He was absolutely proud of his little sister."
Ray had no children of his own, but Dawn's daughter, Molly Wells Dugan, now 10, was like a daughter to him. He took her everywhere. She took her first roller-coaster ride with him at Dorney Park. He was teaching her to swim and planned to teach her how to dive this summer, Dawn said.
They went to the movies, roller skating, and he helped her with her math homework every night.
Their last big project was when Molly, a fifth-grader at St. Katherine of Siena School in Northeast Philadelphia, was picked to compete in the annual Reading Olympics.
She had to read several books, and answer questions and write a report on each.
"Ray read every book and we each answered the questions and wrote reports on the books," Dawn said. "Then we got together and had a roundtable. The last one was about dragons.
"My Molly just adored him," said Dawn, who worked in Ed Rendell's election campaigns, and on President Bill Clinton's second inaugural ceremony. Her brother is Municipal Judge Patrick Dugan.
Ray had a pilot's license, but one day he took Dawn up in a glider.
"When we unhooked from the tow plane, there was this total silence," Dawn said. "I said, 'There's no engine in this thing!' I felt like I was sitting in one of those L'eggs pantyhose cups. I wish I could have relaxed, but there was no way."
She and Ray were in the Italian Alps on a six-week motor trip through Europe in the "smallest car ever."
"We were so high up in the Alps, airplanes were flying past us," she said. "I yelled, 'Take me down!' and got out of the car. He was laughing hysterically."
Ray was born in Wilkinsburg, Pa. to Raymond Alford Jenkins and the former Mildred Cargo. He and his father started the candy company making chocolate bars for parochial schoolchildren to sell in fund-raising campaigns.
"Ray was off-the-charts smart," Dawn said. "But he was a simple guy. You noticed him when he walked into a room because he was so big. He was a lot of fun. I was lucky I got to know him."
Ray's sister is his only immediate survivor.
Services: Were private.