In 1950, when he was just 10 years old, Ray Nine bought a used lawn mower for $25 and went into business for himself. He’s been a working man ever since.
The Mattituck native later ran his own trash collection company and, after selling that, started his own sand and gravel business, which he still operates at age 72. But it’s not so much what he did and does during the workday that prompted the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce to honor Mr. Nine as its man of the year, an award he’ll receive during the group’s holiday party Monday night. It’s more about what he does on his own time.
He’s been active in the chamber since the early 1970s, serving as its president in 1981-82. He always volunteered his time and equipment to put help together the Love Lane Street Fair each July and he’s led the chamber’s effort to provide each paid member with a lighted Christmas tree.
Mr. Nine has been a member of the Mattituck Fire Department for 54 years and has served as an officer since 1990. He also served a term as president of the board of directors at Mattituck Presbyterian Church.
“He is just amazing,” said Rocky Divello, whose family acquired Mr. Nine’s trash collection business in 1971. “He’s probably the hardest-working guy I ever met in my life. Anytime you needed Ray — bing — he was there before you could put down the phone. There’s no dust on him. Old-timers who knew Ray when he was a boy said he was always working, working, working.”
Mr. Nine said it was with a great deal of regret that he resigned from the chamber this past June, the result of Parkinson’s disease, with which he was diagnosed in 2009.
“It’s slowed me down, but I’m still grateful that I can operate,” he said. “I take every day I can get.”
He’ll definitely be missed, said Donielle Cardinale, current chamber president.
“As a kid I can remember going to various chamber events with my parents and Ray was always there, doing more than his part to offer his dedication and volunteer his time,” she said. “He has most definitely made his mark as one of this organization’s most valued members.”
“Ray taught most of us what it meant to be involved in community,” said Bill Bladykas, former owner of the Love Lane Sweet Shoppe and a past chamber president. “There weren’t many people who you could count on to show up the night before the street fair and at 6 a.m. the next morning, but Ray Nine was a given. He taught by example; if Ray can do it why can’t we? If any organization had 10 people like Ray they could rule the world.”
The soft-spoken Mr. Nine doesn’t see his contributions as extraordinary.
“That’s what happens when you love a place. You get involved,” he said.
He and his wife, Dotty, have lived in the same house since 1963 and raised four children.
“Ray has been supportive of not only the chamber but the whole community,” said Janet Stewart, manager of Suffolk County National Bank’s Mattituck branch and a chamber board member. “He is always there is lend a helping hand whether it is decorating the town at Christmas, the annual Street Fair, the beautification of Mattituck and the list goes on and on.”
Said Mr. Bladykas, “Ray Nine is a giver and the Mattituck community is lucky to have him.”
The feeling is mutual.
“I have no desire to go anywhere else,” said Mr. Nine. “If I can stay here the rest of my life that’s what I’d like to do.”
Mattituck Chamber of Commerce Holiday Party
Monday, Dec. 3, 6 to 10 p.m.
Vineyard Caterers, Main Road, Aquebogue
Tickets are $45 and must be purchased in advance