July 5, 1928 – May 3, 2021
Raymond Stefanko, a dedicated flat-top Marine veteran who loved outdoor construction with his troop of iron workers and used his civil engineering expertise to supervise, design and implement repairs and structural projects on three of the Bay Area’s well-known bridges, died three months shy of his 93rd birthday on May 3, 2021, at his home in Reno, NV.
While he was known for his work on steel structures, including the Golden Gate, the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge and the Antioch bridge, he was also known for his body of steel. In his senior years, Ray would always do the number of pushups equal to the age of his birthday, which he fulfilled on his 92nd birthday and would have managed on his 93rd had he made it that far.
Ray was born on July 5, 1928, in Elmwood Park, Illinois, to Ukrainian immigrant parents, the second of three surviving children of Stephen and Anastasia Stefanko. After graduating from Lane Tech High School in Chicago in 1946, Ray enlisted in the US Marine Corps and was honorably discharged in 1948. Ray earned both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in civil engineering from the University of Illinois through the G.I. bill, graduating in 1954.
In 1961, Raymond married Audrey Carter Craigie in Gardnerville, Nevada. Ray’s engineering work took him and Audrey from Southern California to homes in Walnut Creek, Danville, Tahoe City and Reno. They were married for 55 years until her death in 2016.
Beside bridge construction, Ray was structural engineer and project manager for missile sites at Cape Kennedy, Florida, and various restricted missile sites in Colorado and at Vandenburg Air Force Base in Southern California. He designed and engineered equipment to help missile projection accuracy on submarines for the US Navy. His Nevada projects included engineering in several mines in Elko, and the Ruby Mountains. His last construction engineering was of the Highway 80 overpass by the Nugget Casino in Reno.
Ray’s career spanned over 50 years and he became an Emeritus Member of the association of heavy construction engineers, known as The Beavers, which supports the entry of promising young engineers into the industry.
Ray was extremely proud of his military service and credited his time in the Marine Corps “for giving me the ability to work with others and helping me in civilian employment.” As a Marine, Ray stood honor guard for President Harry S. Truman and Admiral Chester A. Nimitz at Quantico, Virginia. In 2018, Ray was invited to the 243rd birthday of the Marine Corps in Las Vegas, and in 2019 he was selected by the Nevada Veterans Honor Flight Program to visit War Memorials and War Museums in Washington, D.C.
Always active, Ray loved skiing with Audrey in Europe and in the West. The skiing trips never hindered him from dancing the Ukrainian ‘Hopak” dance, which came from the Cossack tradition, at the many family weddings of his nieces and nephews.
He was also a dog lover and once he retired, he was seen walking daily with one to five dogs on leash, earning him the title “official canine Pied Piper of the neighborhood.”
Though he had no children of his own, he was totally committed to each of his nieces and nephews and to their many children throughout his life and he was known to all of them as THE GREAT UNCLE RAY.
Predeceased by his brother, John Stefanki, of Los Altos Hills, California, and survived by his sister, Rene Pankiw, of Schaumburg, Ill., Ray will be interred in the military columbarium at the Veterans Military Cemetery in Fernley, Nevada, with his wife and best friend, Audrey.
As a World War II veteran, Ray will have a full military Color Honor Guard ceremony at the cemetery on June 15th at 11:00 am. The family will have a celebration of Ray’s life after his interment for invited guests, friends, and family at his home in Reno.
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