Retired Seattle Police Officers Association

Last Ring

Take a moment to remember our friends and associates who have passed.

Ray Gonstead #2172, retired Seattle Police Detective Sergeant passed away on October 15, 2017 at the age of 80.

Ray was born in Denver, Colorado, but he was raised by his oldest sister, Donna in the Delridge neighborhood of West Seattle. He attended Cooper Grade School and later, West Seattle High. His school chum was Dick Zottman #2577. Ray worked in a gas station during his high school years. He lived next to the West Seattle Golf Course by the 3rd green. He was known to climb over the fence and play a few holes. He even trained his dog to retrieve (steal) golf balls. Then he and Dick would sell them back to the club house.

After graduation from high school, Ray landed a job with the Standard Paper Company, delivering paper products to the downtown businesses. During his fifth year at the company, he married Norma, his wife of 54 years, in 1960. Now his wages didn’t go quite far enough. Later, when Norma was expecting their first child, Ray became concerned. Thankfully, his old childhood friend’s dad Ralph Zottman #624 was recruiting Ray for the Department. He was now 23 years old, the threshold age to apply. He did, and was hired four months before Kristine, his daughter was born.

He attended Academy Class #44 with Lee Benjamin #2174, Roy Skagen #2204, Roy Wedlund #2154, Don Cameron #2192, and Don Vert #2168. After the Academy, Ray went to West Central Patrol for two years. Next, he transferred to Bikes for two years. Then back to Patrol in early 1966. He and Roy Skagen worked together. One-night shift, while eating at Burgermaster on Aurora, they on-viewed a horrific vehicle accident. The driver was wearing a seatbelt which saved him; however, his female passenger was not wearing hers. Her face was buried in the metal dashboard. When they pulled her up to check for injuries, part of her face remained stuck in the dash. Ray got a blanket out of the prowl car to stem the bleeding. He recovered some of her face parts. The Medic’s said he not only saved her life, but also enhanced her chances of reconstructive face surgery. Months later, Special Detail (Traffic Collision) showed Ray and Roy the before and after pictures. The plastic surgery was a complete success. The detectives were so impressed with Ray’s actions and report of the incident, that they recruited him into Special Detail six months later. Ray stayed in the detail until he made sergeant in 1972.

As a sergeant, he was assigned to Georgetown. There, he teamed up with Chuck Pillon #2408, buying old VW bugs, repairing them for re-sale. This awakened his entrepreneurial spirit. Next, he joined up with Dan Burden #2477, buying old houses, repairing them for rentals. Their mentor in this was Don Cameron – another South End sergeant. Their fellow officers began to call them slumlords just because when one of their renters called the precinct to complain about rats. Ray went to the property with a .22 pistol and eradicated the vermin problem.

In 1975, most of the young patrol officers were grousing about the Department being locked up for transfers to other assignments. Dick Schoener #1319 heard their complaints and immediately instituted a mandatory transfer program for all officers with 5-9 years of service. The hitch was that transfers were within Patrol, just different watches and precincts. Ron Rispoli #3649 was sent South to work for Ray. One shift, while taking a break in the Fire Station by Franklin High, Ron and his partner played a heated game of ping pong. The table was right behind the fire rigs. It was the final set to determine the winner, so both took their gun belts off. This is serious competition, signifying absolutely nothing. They placed the belts on the back of a fire truck and began to play. Suddenly the house alarm goes off. The fire fighters jump in the truck and drive off with the gun belts flapping in the back. Ron and his partner jumped in their car, red lights and siren, chasing the fire truck, and waving for the truck to stop. The fire driver can’t figure out what the cops are doing, so radios the fire alarm office, which called police dispatch. Dispatch can’t raise Ron on the radio. He’s too embarrassed. Communications called Ray in the precinct to figure it out. Well, Ray meets Ron at the fire scene. After hearing their story, Ray said, “no one will believe this cock and bull, if you won’t tell, neither will I. Just clear it with an assist to another agency.”

A little later, Ray and a lot of other sworn personnel got the stock market bug and invested in “March Resources”, a penny stock out of Vancouver B.C. Everyone was making money until the Ponzi scheme collapsed. So, Ray moved into antiques. He bought an old chamber (bathroom) pot that Arvid Jensen #2359 found while scuba diving in the Duwamish. The next found treasure was an old WWII Navy Morse Code signal lamp about the size of a 5-gallon bucket. Ray was really into collectibles. His garage was getting full. One morning, while riding with Morey Skaret #406, Ray recovered a human toe. Later, when telling his wife about the incident, Norma said, “Now Ray, don’t you dare bring that home to add to your junk collection!”

Ray also inherited Mike Nelson #3365 as a squad member. One shift, Mike got a call of a big, vicious dog. When he got on scene and saw the dog’s size, he called for Animal Control. An hour passed, no Animal Control, but the dog was actively harassing joggers and the mailman and neighbors. Ray responded and told Mike the two of them would handle the dog. Mike was reluctant. So, Ray took Mike’s night stick and walked up the driveway. The dog accepted the challenge and charged Ray. He clubbed the dog across its back. The dog hit Ray below the knees. Ray fell over backward, breaking his wrist. The dog got up, slowly limped over to the nightstick, grabbed it in its mouth, and limped up the driveway. Ray got up slowly, supporting his wrist and limped over to Mike in the prowl car, saying, “that’s how you handle a mean dog. If you would have done it, I wouldn’t have a broken wrist.” Mike laughingly replied, “Yes, and I’d still have my baton.” Ray then countered, “That’s not funny Officer Nelson.” Eventually, Animal Control arrived and had a hard time subduing the dog. Mike found his baton completely chewed up.

Ray was the watch’s cribbage champ. It was Ray and Dan Burden versus Mike and Ron. The tourney was at Happy’s Tavern. The hours were end of shift to the beginning of the next shift. But no drinking six hours before the next shift start.

On June 21, 1974, the Seattle Police Helicopter with Jim St. DeLore #3341 and Jim Forbes #3184 responded to a weapon disturbance call. Ground units were also responding, including Rod Woods #3455, Mike Nelson, and Ron Rispoli. A small Cessna out of Boeing Field collided with the police helicopter. The ground units redirected to the crash scene at 9302 37th S. They found both copter officers dead inside the burning wreck. In fact, Mike was scheduled to be the observer that day, but had swapped with Forbes. This was a long and sorrowful tragedy, two dead south end officers and the dead Cessna crew. When Mike, Ron and Rod were finally relieved, Ray met them in the precinct and facilitated a decompression session with a jug. To this day, the three credit Ray with getting them through this incident – no admin leave, no psychologist, no chaplain, just a great sergeant.

In 1977, Ray went to Property Crimes. Then in 1982, he transferred to Auto Theft where he finished out his career of 29 ½ years of service on October 3, 1990.

In retirement, Ray and Norma built a home on Anderson Island’s golf course. It was located next to a sloping fairway. Like his youth, he got a lot of free golf balls in his yard. So, he took up golf again – 4 times per week. His claim to fame was eight holes-in-one on this short executive course. He also got back into fishing and hunting.

Norma preceded Ray in death. He is survived by his older sister that raised him, Donna Trulson; daughter, Kristine DeLong; and son, Mark.

Dan Oliver
Executive Secretary
Seattle Pension Office