Updated 21 July 2022
Ray Burlingame-Goff died on July 29th, 2021 in Mannheim Germany after a two-year battle with kidney cancer. He was 68 years old.
Ray was a long-time active and beloved member of EUU, serving several terms as Vice-President and on the Nominating Committee as well as helping organize numerous retreats, creating and maintaining our software systems, hosting winter solstice celebrations, and serving and helping in what other ways he could.
Ray passed away peacefully in the arms of his devoted wife and constant companion, Carolyn. He will be lovingly remembered by the three children they were parenting together, Cara, Leo and Johnny Burmedi as well as by Ray’s daughters from an earlier marriage, Michaela and Linden Goff. Ray is also survived by his two sisters Dee Brook (Tony) and Ann Esberger (John); his nephews and nieces Simon Jones, Adam Esberger (Jo), and Lora Esberger; his great-nephew Charlie and great-niece Evie; and his Bengal cats Dot and Dash, who brought him great joy in the final months of his life.
Growing up in Farnborough, Hampshire, Ray was a natural engineer – always fascinated by how things worked. He became enthralled with ham radio operation at the tender age of eight when he built a crystal set with his cousin Pete. Ray’s contribution to amateur radio is one of his most significant legacies: not only was he active in many clubs and events, his Morse code and Contest Programs have been downloaded by thousands and are actively used throughout the international amateur radio community.
Ray was exceptionally proud to have worked for himself for most of his career. He was a co-founder of Starfish Technologies Limited with Graham Neden-Watts and continued to create software for them until shortly before his death. Even on his most difficult days, Ray always found a bit of time “to Starfish.”
Life hit the re-set button for Ray when he and Carolyn “became an item” in 2014. In the seven years they were together, they settled in a new home near Cambridge and commuted between it and Heidelberg, Germany. Their love of travel took them to Scotland, Greece, Turkey, France, Italy, Switzerland, and the final two States Ray needed to claim visits to all 48 of the continental United States. Team Burlingame-Goff worked on three plays together with their close friends Cheryl and Tom Navo, Lois Borsay and Gurdon Smith; helmed the Unitarian Universalists in Europe organization for two years; and made a significant dent in Carolyn’s research projects. Ray’s example as a loving husband and stepfather served as an inspiration to many. His years with Carolyn were a happy and healing time for their family.
Ray’s life centered on three loves: love of radio, love of his company, and love of his family. When he received his cancer diagnosis he responded with characteristic optimism: “Well, at least I had a life.” Those of us who had the privilege of sharing it with him will treasure him always.
Memories and tributes from EUU friends as well as family
Ray and I would never have met if it hadn’t been for EUU. During our extremely happy but maddeningly short 7 years together, EUU was a common focus. Our license plate is HD UU 14 (we started dating at the Fall Retreat in 2014). I never would have agreed to be EUU President without his support, and he never would have agreed to be President without mine. Although I stepped back from EUU after his diagnosis, I encouraged Ray to help whenever he could, and as other activities began to slip away, EUU gave him a way to feel useful. That was important in his final months.
EUU was a central part of our love story, and we were very proud of that.
I will always be grateful to EUU for being the nurturing ground for my mother’s and Ray’s relationship. We felt safe and happy coming to retreats as a family, and the acceptance and support EUU showed us meant a great deal. I remember lighting a candle during joys and concerns, thanking Ray for how happy he made my mother and us kids. Someone approached me after the fact saying that that gave them hope for their patchwork family.
Ray was the most wonderful stepdad I could have wished for. The most painful parts of the past weeks have been the moments when I’ve needed Ray and said to myself “oh I’ll have to give Ray a call or ask him that at family dinner”, just to realize I will never talk to him again. He helped me in so many ways, especially when I recently moved into my apartment and he hung everything that needed hanging on the walls and installed my WIFI for me. But most importantly, Ray was always there for me emotionally, celebrating my highest highs with me and giving me a hug and advice during my lowest lows. I can’t imagine what life is going to be like without him.
As I write this, having just spent the morning coding at my desk, I’m struck by the fact that I’m echoing much of Ray’s routine in the run up to a retreat. Setting up frameworks, identifying issues, fixing bugs and so on. Of course, I’m coding for myself, when he would be working for others, selflessly. And we would’ve been worse off for it had he not been so selfless. Sure, the registration system isn’t what most would consider the core of a retreat, but it does have an indispensable role to play every time we gather. If you’ll forgive the tortured analogy, Ray played a similar role. At retreats and at home he was always a supportive force in the background.
Ray was a considerate, charitable, and ever-present role model to us. I cleared out his desk a few weeks ago, and every note and letter and scrap of paper I found was some project he was working on for other people. He donated his tools, his time, his expertise and occasionally even his blood. Most importantly, he brought joy into my mom’s life. He did everything but take the spotlight. Looking back, I almost wish he had taken it more just so I could have more memories of him to hold onto. That wasn’t his thing, though.
The essence of Ray was making sure his loved ones thrived. He loved us, he loved EUU, and even if I’m just sitting at my desk, I will do my best to thrive for him. I hope you will thrive for him too.
Laura Volles (Leo’s partner)
I remember my first family dinner with Carolyn and Ray – I was so nervous. I had no idea what was expected of me; would we say grace? If so, which one? Carolyn, at the head of the table, took Ray’s hand, and we began: “For our homes and daily food, for our friends and all things good, we give thanks.” Even though I struggled to get the words right the first few times, they easily became second nature: taking Ray’s hand in my right and Leo’s in my left and saying grace. Grace, the trait, befit Ray well. Grace in his kindness and patience, grace in his gentle hugs, grace in those hands that carefully crafted dinners and magically fixed whatever was broken, always precise, always calm. His hand never wavered once it reached out to others; no matter what, we could always rely on him. Ray managed to find friends everywhere. Lucky them, lucky us.
For our home that Ray created with us, for those meals that he made for us, for being a dear friend to so many and for being such a strong, good presence in our lives – thank you, Ray.
When I look back on recent EUU retreats, I can’t help but think of Ray and my mom. At retreats they would form a unit, doing anything and everything together. For those three days, nothing could bring either of them down. I will never forget the many times Ray and my mom would get on stage together during Joys and Concerns. Hand in hand, they would talk about how happy they were to be together and how proud they were of us children. At the time I always found these speeches rather embarrassing, but now I treasure them so very much. Though Ray left most of the talking to my mom in those moments, I always knew he loved her and us children, the same way we loved him.
Michaela and Linden Goff
Dad’s first EUU retreat was Fall 1999 in Paris and we have many happy family memories of retreats over the years. Living in England, every retreat felt like going on a mini adventure as we navigated multiple trains, countries, and unexpected surprises on our journeys. It was all part of the fun. From the beginning Dad was always ready to volunteer his help and our help to the community and there were many times we arrived at retreat early in order to assist setting things up. Music was always central to Dad’s retreat experience from proudly listening to Michaela playing oboe with Martha Hicks to all of us enjoying the music in the bar on Saturday night played by the Johns (Keating and Hertz!). Even after leaving home hearing these songs transports us back to our time at EUU. We know that Dad has continued to be a central member of EUU and we are grateful that he drew so much meaning from this community.
Other EUU Friends
The first time I met Ray Goff (as he was then known) was when he attended his first EUU retreat in St. Prix, in the Paris suburbs about 20 years ago. He came with his family and I had the pleasure of picking them up at the local train station and ferrying them to the site. I was immediately impressed with his intelligence, patience and cheerfulness.
Over the years our families met at his home in Oxford once and regularly at retreats. After his marriage dissolved and his daughters moved to the US, Ray stuck with us by himself, not only as an attendee but also a volunteer helper, putting to good use his excellent IT skills right up to our last retreat in the spring.
The best part of his story and possibly of his life was when he connected with Carolyn. I told her recently that it was a fairy tale but one that so sadly ended prematurely. It was always so uplifting when the two of them would stand up at retreats and update us all about their loving relationship, first at its inception and eventually with their marriage.
The two of them came several times to Paris to enjoy themselves and attend UUFP services. Once we were blessed to have them stay with us. He had been at our home a few times over the years when we hosted the winter EUU CC meetings when I was an officer. I especially admire how the two of them took over as hosts for the winter solstice festivities once the Keatings returned to the States. We only ever made it to one of those, but it was at their home and a wonderful occasion.
The worst news came in the summer of 2019 when he informed me, as head of the Nominating Committee, that he could not take the reins as EUU President from Carolyn at the end of the summer as the earlier AGM had endorsed because of his cancer diagnosis. But that did not stop him from being as full a contributor to our group as he could possibly be as he fought the disease until the end.
We all owe him a great deal of gratitude, as we do Carolyn, to whom we hereby send our love and deepest condolences in this time of mourning. It will be hard to realise that he is gone, but that is only his physical presence. Surely all of us will remember him so very fondly for the rest of our lives. Rest in peace, dearest Ray, my friend.
Martha and John Hicks
We mourn the death of Ray Burlingame-Goff. When a good friend leaves us, an important piece of the fabric of life is missing. John and I had known Ray since we first picked him and his daughter Linden up at the Hahn airport for a retreat at Oberwesel. We don’t remember what year that was, but we remember his warm smile and easy humor and liked him immediately. Through the years we looked forward to seeing him at retreats and grew close to his daughters in the RE program, watching them turn into young ladies. We were so glad after a longer absence from the retreats to see Ray and Carolyn find so much happiness together. We were deeply saddened to learn of his illness and had hoped he would somehow be able to beat it. When we attended the last Winter Solstice in Heidelberg in 2019, it was wonderful to see how his family was caring for him, and because of them, I think it extended his life, surrounding him in love. Ray brought a light so great to the world that even after he has gone, the light remains.
Rev. Diane Rollert
I’m absolutely shocked and heartbroken by the news of Ray’s death. He was such a kind and good man. I remember first meeting him at Spa in 2017 when he made me feel so welcome. I then had the pleasure of getting to know him better over these years that I’ve served as UUA ambassador to the EUU. It was Ray who picked me up at the airport when I flew into Frankfurt, and I have fond memories of long talks while driving together. I will always remember his smile, his good humour, his friendliness, his willingness to do whatever needed to be done, and of course, his deep love for Carolyn and his whole family. He was a rock of calm for us all, someone who offered quiet wisdom and caring shelter. He is gone too soon, and I will truly miss him. This is a tremendous loss to the EUU, and I am holding Carolyn, the whole family and you all in my heart.
John and I are immensely saddened by Ray’s death. Although he looked weak at some CC meetings, the fact that he wanted to contribute so much led me to believe that the situation was more positive than it was. But that was Ray in a nutshell. He was definitely one of the most helpful, generous, cheerful, and supportive people I have ever known. Always offering to help in any way he could. I think of the times when he came early to help us set up for retreats, lugging his little printer, speakers, whatever, and encouraging me that everything would work out fine, while we folded and stuffed envelopes and dealt with one little “challenge” after another…. And it did work out fine, at least in part because he was there. Obviously the new website would not have happened when it did without his help behind the scenes and also his encouragement. Knowing that his support was there was sooo important to me.
And of course his terms as VP of EUU were critical for the good of our community. Always positive at meetings, always sensible, always respectful of other viewpoints, and frequently able to suggest ways to tackle issues that the rest of us could then see were good ideas.
What a loss to us all, but what a continuing influence he has left for us. We are grateful to have know him and to have had him with us for the years that we did.
I’m also personally happy that Carolyn and he were able to find each other and have the time they did, way too brief as it was. They deserved each other – they just deserved to have more time. I’m so sorry, and John and I are both grieving with all of his family.
Terri J Michos
Ray Burlingame-Goff will live in my memory as a stand-up guy.
He stood up to the call for a co-coordinator of At-Large, a gentle, modest, grounding spirit. He stood up to the call for a registrant at many a retreat, including the major effort coding the European Unitarians Together in 2017 & 2019 from scratch. And he stood up to marry the woman he loved and become a father of three more.
I will miss his dignity, his calming nature and his wit.
My memories of Ray are of the kind UK man I met at a EUU retreat and got to know at more EUU retreats and the Solstice celebrations hosted by him with Carolyn at their home near Heidelberg — all very good EUU times of warm loving fellowship. I also recall Ray at other UU services too.
Ray was also the go to IT guy when we needed one.
A fine good gentle caring man who will be missed by us and all his roles in his families.
The news of Ray’s death was a shock to me. I think I last spoke to Ray at the event in Berlin. I was not aware of his illness. But in going over old Unifiers, I did find a reference to his medical treatments in the Fall of 2019.
My recollection of Ray is that he was a kind, low-key, welcoming presence at EUU events. He was a friendly soul with a warm smile and a calming presence. Ray will be greatly missed.
A saddened fan of both Carolyn & Ray, Angela Vona UUFP
Please extend my sincerest condolences to dearest Carolyn who welcomed & supported me in the European UU & to her whole lovely Family.
I remember how Ray loved & supported Carolyn with all his heart, calm & wonderful sense of humor.
I would simply share that while I did not know Ray for a very long time, I did have the pleasure of working with him in preparing the workshops (along, of course, with Peter) for the last EUU retreat. He was the consummate gentleman and, despite his growing health problems, made a unique and very significant contribution to the workshops’ success.
He seemed like a great guy… personable, competent, and genuine. I would like to have known him better… my loss.
An online memorial service to celebrate Ray’s life took place on Sunday, August 29, 2021.
For details about the service, including the Zoom link, click here: