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Everybody Loves Ray

Article Published: Oct. 19, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Everybody Loves Ray

Bare Essentials clerk Ray Werhane, right, gives back change and a smile to customers.

Photo by Mark Mitchell

Most regular customers at Bare Essentials Natural Market in Boone know Ray Werhane by name -in fact several dropped by to wish him Happy Birthday in September.

Since 2001, Ray has been as much the public face of the Boone store as are owners Ben Henderson and Mary Underwood.

At 85, Ray continues to do what he loves most -work with people.

Like many of his generation, Ray's future path was set by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He was a senior in high school in suburban Chicago and soon found himself at Oberlin College in Ohio both in regular classes and in the Navy's V-12 officer training program, which would eventually lead to a stint in the naval supply-corps program at Harvard Business School and later a master's degree in administration.

Ray's unit was one of the first contingency to enter Hiroshima after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb in 1945.
After the war, Ray worked on Madison Avenue in New York City's advertising industry and stuck around the bubble-gum industry as a marketing professional from 1947-1959.

Stints in the non-profit and real-estate sector eventually led Ray to the High Country via the familiar route of Florida.
In 2001, Henderson interviewed Ray for a job.

"First, when I interviewed Ray for a job eight years ago, I looked at his resume and, after a few minutes of the interview, I told him I felt he should be interviewing me," he said.

Ray, who is married to Linda Werhane, worked at Bare Essentials full-time as customer-service manager until illness forced him into a part-time role in 2007.

"Many folks mistakenly have thought Ray and I were father and son," Henderson said.
"I consider that to be one of the greatest compliments I have ever received."

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