Military Travels Teach Payson Man There's No Better Place Than Home

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Technically, Ray Law was only a full-time resident of Payson during his senior year in high school until retiring here two years ago.

But he had the good fortune to be a weekender from the time he was just 5, when his grandfather built a home on Summit Street. Later, his family bought a farm in the Diamond Point Shadows area and that is where Law lived while in school at Payson High School.

So, even though Payson was a weekend place most of his life, it was "home" and the place he and his wife decided to retire to when he left the Air Force Feb. 1, 2006 with the rank of major.

He finished his military career in Panama City, Fla. at Tyndall Air Force Base.

"We had thought about retiring in Florida. But there on the panhandle you have to deal with the bugs and humidity and hurricanes, so coming back to Arizona seemed like a better idea," Law said.

His wife is from Flagstaff, but they thought it was too cold in winter to retire there and the Valley was too hot.

While Law's family was not an actual military family, his father was a B17 bomber pilot in the latter part of World War II and they were always going to air shows. He grew up with a kind of military upbringing. Still, he did not go into the service right out of high school.

He attended Northern Arizona University for two years and Arizona State University for another two years, and then returned to NAU; met Bernita Etter, quit school and married. He worked in his father-in-law's cleaning business and then in the car business.

"When Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University opened in Prescott, we sold everything and I went back to school there," Law said.

He earned a bachelor's of science degree in aeronautical studies and was in the Air Force ROTC, earning his commission in April 1981.

"I had to wait for active duty until January 1982," he said.

He said he went into the military because he felt it was his patriotic duty. "And I wanted to be around cool airplanes," he added with a laugh.

His active duty with the Air Force started where it ended, at Tyndall in Panama City, Fla. He attended Air Weapons Controller School in Florida and then Air Surveillance Officer Training at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss. Law was with the Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) based at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Okla. off and on for 11 years.

His work took him to Saudi Arabia twice and Korea. He was a teacher for 11 years in the service and was presented the "Outstanding Academic Instructor Award" from classes of Air Battle Manager students at Tyndall Air Force Base.

Since returning to Payson, Law worked at Home Depot for about 18 months, and his wife still works there. In March he found his way back to an educational setting. He is now director of student services at the Payson campus of Gila Community College.

His responsibilities include overseeing student registration and records and assisting Dean Pam Butterfield.

"I really enjoy working at the college and Dean Butterfield is wonderful to work for," Law said.

His one regret is not being able to teach. "You are either with the staff or you're an instructor, you can't be both."

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