April 25, 2016 // 2:13 PM
A Life Filled with Possibility
Written by Trish Lauer
Graduate high school one day, and never, ever get a tattoo.
Those are the two promises Raymond Powell’s mother wanted him to make her before she signed off on his decision to enlist in the Navy during WWII, instead of waiting to be drafted into the Army.
Joining in 1943, Ray traveled all over the world with the U.S. Navy. With a view from his convoy ship, he saw Sicily, Majorca, North Africa, Southern France, the Panama Canal and the Rock of Gibraltar. The war ended while Ray was still on duty and he was discharged. Returning to civilian life, Ray decided to pursue photography via help from the GI Bill. He attended school at the Antonelli Institute in Philadelphia and, upon graduation, opened up his own photography studio. After two years, Ray and his wife decided it was time for a change of scenery and moved to Florida.
Continuing his work as a photographer, Ray would eventually find himself at the Orlando Sentinel after fate intervened and a previously unavailable position opened when a staff member moved to another part of the state. In his new job, he would go around with reporters, taking pictures to accompany various news stories. One of these shots, an up-close photo of a reporter’s hand covered in dirt from the Banana River, would eventually circulate on a national level. Ray would also bear witness to many launchings at Cape Canaveral as a part of his time at the newspaper.
His years of success and experience lead Ray to be involved in covering Disneyworld from the very beginning, being who the Sentinel would send out each time they needed photographic coverage of its progress, and, eventually, grand opening. He recalls seeing the land when it was just an open field and how it needed to be dredged for the sake of boats; he also saw the creation of Main Street Station and, what would turn out to be the biggest piece of iconography of the Magic Kingdom, the very first stone in Cinderella Castle being laid. Interestingly, Ray learned that Walt Disney, the face of the entire Disney operation, was averse to having his picture taken. A kind man, as Ray describes him, Walt didn’t like the spotlight to be focused on him.
Ray would spend 30 years in Florida before returning to Pennsylvania, where he’s lived ever since. Ray and his unique story are an example of the fascinating people who make up the Garden Spot Village landscape. His is a life truly lived with possibility.