Ray and Nellie Koon - A Good Life !One of the charming things about the demographics at Sunnyside is that it’s not unusual to run into couples who have been married for 50 (or even 60, and occasionally 70!) years or more. This year Ray and Nellie Koon will celebrate their 57th wedding anniversary, perhaps not so unusual in some ways, but in this case there’s a difference—this was a second marriage for each of them.
In 2012 Ray and Nellie moved to Sunnyside from Nelson County’s Rockfish Valley, where they had resided for more than 50 years. In fact, every Sunday they still return to Rockfish Presbyterian Church to keep up ties to their spiritual home. Prior to last year, they had spent six or seven months each year at a second home in Inglewood, Florida, but they now consider themselves permanent Sunnyside residents. “Highway traffic got too dangerous,” explains Ray, “and we wanted to get more tied in to the Sunnyside community.” They also wanted to spend more time with their twelve grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Before their retirement, Ray had worked as Building and Maintenance Superintendent for the City of Charlottesville, and Nellie had been an accountant in the College of Engineering at UVA. And while that accounts for their professional lives, they also devoted much of their time to social services, both in Nelson County and abroad. They raised money for a number of worthy causes and did missionary work all over the world—and that included three trips to Haiti. Why? “Because we just enjoy helping people,” says Nellie.
They now stay busy with their current hobbies. Nellie has a complete kitchen in the lower level of their Grattan Price cottage, and she dedicates this to canning and preserving. From April to October Nellie and Ray go each week to the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction, a Mennonite farm market in Dayton, and according to Nellie, “we buy vegetables and fruit by the bushel and by the basket.” Because of her diligence in setting aside fruits and vegetables (including apples, pears, peaches, soups, sauces, several kinds of beans, and, as the saying goes, many more items too numerous to mention), the Koons have almost no need to go to a grocery store—except for milk and a few other small items. And Nellie and Ray don’t keep all this food to themselves. Nellie makes it clear that they “like to give things away,” and in summer you can find some of their bounty in a basket in the Highlands, courtesy of the Koons.
Ray’s hobby is woodworking. Modestly, he says he just “whittles and piddles” in his lower level workroom, but he turns out some remarkable objects. He specializes in carving boots, shoes, and (just to mix it up) warthogs. He also has a tremendous collection of walking sticks that he carves and paints.
Ray and Nellie have large hearts, and each day discloses new opportunities for them to show their love and compassion for others. Ray beautifully and succinctly summarizes where they are right now: “We’ve had a good life. We’ve been blessed.” --John Noffsinger