Raymond J. Chelte, 81, passed away peacefully surrounded by his family, on Tuesday, July 16. Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Ray was one of 9 children born to Shoukry Fisal and Nettie (Elias) Chelte.
Ray completed his high school education in the US Army and was a veteran of the Korean War. His exemplary courage earned him a Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, and two Silver Stars. He was awarded a battlefield commission and was promoted to the rank of Captain for his service in the 82nd Airborne as a paratrooper and corpsman who jumped behind enemy lines as a member of the Airborne Special Forces.
He continued his education at AIC, receiving a Bachelor of Business Administration, and went on to earn a Master’s degree in Education from Westfield State University and a CAGS from the University of Minnesota. Ray taught business subjects for 15 years at Chicopee Comprehensive High School and was President of the Chicopee Education Association for three years; he then went on to work for the Massachusetts Teachers Association as a contract negotiator and labor consultant, and continued his professional development by graduating from the Harvard Trade Union Program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He was the only lay member of the Tripartite Board that settled “Lemon Law” disputes for people bringing complaints about defective automobiles.
For his distinguished service to the City of Chicopee, Ray was recognized with the Citizen of the Year honor in 1996. He served on numerous civic boards and committees and was responsible for initiating the formation of the Friends of the Chicopee Public Library. He also served on three Building Commissions for the construction of the new Chicopee High School, the new Chicopee Comprehensive High School, and the new middle school that will occupy the old Chicopee High School site.
Ray was very proud of his involvement with the Rotary Club of Chicopee, serving as its secretary, its president, and as District Governor for District 7890 from 1994-1995. He is a multiple Paul Harris recipient and was responsible for revitalizing the Rotary Youth Leadership Award Program. As a Chicopee Rotarian, Ray originated the “Helping Hands” food distribution program that, through private donations and club fund raising efforts, feeds holiday meals to the needy in Chicopee at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. He also endowed a scholarship in his brother Bryan’s name.
In 2002, The Advertising Club of Western Massachusetts awarded Ray the Order of William Pynchon for his outstanding community service.
In 2011, Ray was the first recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Westfield State University.
Most recently, The Chicopee Visiting Nurse Association, Inc., for which Ray had served as a Board member for several years, honored him by naming their Board Room after Ray.
Ray leaves his wife of 31 years, the former Judith Segzdowicz, and his mother-in-law, Stella M. Segzdowicz. He leaves his children Dr. Anthony F. Chelte, of Kona, Hawaii; Michael T. Chelte and his wife Deanna of Chicopee; Patricia A. Shaw and her husband Stanley III, of Wilbraham; and Mary M. Chelte-Joseph and her husband Thomas of Las Vegas, Nevada. He is grandfather to 9 and a great-grandfather of 8. He was predeceased by his former wife, Virginia Gauthier Chelte and a son, Raymond, Jr.
He leaves his brother Darrow Chelte and his wife Jean of Plymouth, Minnesota; his brother Vern and his wife Gladys of Minneapolis, his sisters Mary Gronsberg of Richmond, Minnesota, and Eleanor, also of Minnesota. He is predeceased by his brother Bryan of San Francisco, California, a brother Frank of Minneapolis, and his sisters Genevieve and Margie of Minnesota.
Ray’s wife and family would like to extend their sincerest thanks to Dr. Albert Alexander, Dr. John Marenco, Dr. Sayed Peeren, Dr. Erica Kane, Dr. Daniel Landry, to all the outstanding nursing staff in the Mass Mutual Wing of the Davis Family Heart & Vascular Center at Baystate Medical Center on the 3rd, 6th, and 7th floors, to Baystate Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice, and to the Chicopee Visiting Nurse Association, Inc., with especial thanks to Judy Cote, CEO.
Calling hours for Ray will be held on Thursday, July 18 from 2 to 7 p.m. at the Corridan Funeral Home 333 Springfield Street in Chicopee. All are invited to gather for a graveside service on Friday at 11 a.m. at St. Stanislaus Cemetery in Chicopee, St. Francis section.
Please omit flowers. Donations in Ray’s name may be made to Holy Name of Jesus Parish, 104 Springfield Street, Chicopee, Massachusetts 01013, to the Chicopee Rotary Club “Helping Hands” food distribution project, or to the Chicopee Rotary Club Scholarship Program: Rotary Club of Chicopee, PO Box 152, Chicopee, MA 01021.