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Marcia Ray, 78; Activist Supported Breast Cancer Research, Treatment


Marcia Ray, a Glendale activist known for her work to support breast cancer research and treatment at Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center, has died at her home of cancer.

She died Saturday at 78.

To show its appreciation for Ray's work, the hospital renamed its breast cancer center in her honor last year.

Ray was known as a humble woman with an upbeat outlook on life, even after learning last year that her cancer had returned after 14 years.

"You'd never have known. She always had a smile and no complaints," said Michael Pfaff, vice president of the hospital's foundation. "I learned a lot from her. She lived every day and was an inspiration to many. She was a gift."

Born in Cortland, N.Y., Ray taught school briefly before settling in Glendale with her husband, Richard G. Ray, in the mid-1940s. She was active in the community, serving as president of several organizations, including Las Candelas, which helps emotionally disturbed children, and the Glendale chapter of the National Charity League.

A couple of years after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Ray's oncologist, Dr. Sundera V. Ariathurai, called on her in 1988 to start a support group for women battling the disease. In a 1996 Times article, the doctor said Ray was a source of strength and confidence to other women.

"Marcia always struck me as being everybody's friend," Ariathurai said. "She has a special type of charm about her. Even when she was going through the treatments herself, she was out [in the waiting room] comforting everyone else."

Friends said Ray strove to keep the monthly meetings upbeat and positive. She attended every gathering until early this year, rarely missing a meeting, said Lois Winston, director of the breast cancer center, established in 1994.

Ray also helped organize community leaders to raise funds for the center. In 1999, the foundation presented her with the inaugural Ray of Light award, named after her.

"Some people are like ostriches; they just want to stick their heads in the sand and not talk to anyone," Ray told The Times in 1996. "But it is so satisfying to know . . . that you can alleviate some of the worry."

Ray is survived by her husband of 57 years; son Richard G. Ray Jr.; daughters Marcy Ray and Holly Brown; and four grandchildren.

A funeral will be held at 11:30 a.m. Friday at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.

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