HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- You might not know the name Don Ray, but if you've ever watched WSAZ then he has touched your life.
Don Ray started at WSAZ on July 9, 1973, as an account executive.
On Tuesday, July 9, 2013, he was celebrated and thanked for his work and leadership as WSAZ's General Manager.
Station employees gathered and listened as proclamations from the mayors of Huntington and Charleston were read, deeming July 9 as "Don Ray Day" in both cities.
"A lot of things were different, but a lot is the same," Ray reflected on his 40 years. "We are still in the business of making businesses successful. We are still in the business of bringing information to people."
Ray is also a vice president for WSAZ's parent company Gray Television.
Ray says one of the most memorable moments for him was a phone call he made to the corporate office before he was given his corporate title.
"In 2005, I called our corporate headquarters and I said, 'I've got a really smart guy here I want you to keep an eye on him.' "
That call took a turn he could have never imagined.
"They said, 'That is a good idea. We will send him to South Bend and make you a regional vice president,' " Ray said, explaining that the conversation's nonchalant nature surprised him. "That was the most shocking thing that ever happened to me."
WSAZ is the station families have been turning to for generations, and Ray acknowledges it is a special place.
"I love the people. I go to bed at night I think, 'Are you crazy, man? What are you walking away from?' "
"I think that people respect that responsibility," Ray added. "The people here respect that everybody is counting on them. Nobody wants to let anybody down; nobody wants to slip in the ratings."
"These young people that are coming in here to work are smart," Ray said. "The station is poised to do great things, and my family is poised to have me around a little more."
Ray's work extends far beyond the walls of the WSAZ Studios. He has worked with several organizations including TEAM for West Virginia, the West Virginia Broadcasters Association, the Marshall University Big Green Scholarship Foundation, the Huntington YMCA and the Huntington Area Development Council.
In his 40 years at WSAZ, Ray launched WSAZ Children's Charities. Leading the charge, the organization has raised more than $250,000 to make the lives of children better across the Tri-State and Kanawha Valley.
Ray plans to continue his work with the Children Charities.
"Whoever is the general manager, they will have to become a part of the culture," Ray said. "Of being good to people and being part of a team and not trying to take the credit, but make sure it's done the right way. They will have to do that; it will continue."
Ray will tell you that it's time for him to go. But even after 40 years, there are parts of the job that make him grin from ear to ear.
"I still get that thrill of being asked a question and knowing the answer ... I still get that good feeling of being able to pat someone on the shoulder and say 'good job' and see their face light up."
Even though he won't physically be in the building each day, his presence will be felt. What he's done at WSAZ will always be a part of what makes it so very special.
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