Welder-to-be gets gift from the heart

Posted: April 18, 2013

The Winchester Star

Dan and Pam Hamric (from left), their son Josh Hamric, Handley High School welding teacher and Technical Education department chairman Steve Robeson and Joyce and David Ray pose at the school Monday.
Josh Hamric, 17, a Handley High School senior and welding student, demonstrates TIG welding to Joyce and David Ray. The Rays donated books, welding equipment and a scholarship to Josh, who is going to attend Hobart Institute of Welding Technology, a school in Ohio that was also attended by the Rays’ son, Jonathan. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Jon Ray, a 2003 Handley High School graduate, was a natural at welding.

“It was the one thing he did on his own and followed through with,” said his mom, Joyce Ray. “Other stuff he’d drop midstream, but he followed that from beginning to end.”

Out of high school, Ray was accepted into the prestigious Hobart Institute of Welding Technology in Ohio, where he completed a two-year program.

A few years ago, at age 28, Ray committed suicide. Among the few things he left behind was the tool bag he’d received during his stint at Hobart.

In August, Handley senior Josh Hamric will take that bag of welding tools and $3,000 in scholarship money — both supplied by Joyce and David Ray — when he enrolls at Hobart.

“It’s closure,” David said. “Now someone can benefit from the education my son got.”

Josh feels blessed.

“I’m going to make sure I put them to good use,” he said. “They’ll help start me out on my career.”

According to Handley welding teacher Steve Robeson, Josh is a natural who strives for perfection.

When the Rays asked Robeson who would be a good fit to receive their son’s tools, which are valued at about $500, there was only one choice.

“Most or all of the students get excited about [welding], but there’s only a select few who show so much interest and want to make a career out of it,” Robeson said. “Josh always wants to find out more. He wants to keep going, and that’s what makes him stand out from the others.”

Josh, who is currently employed at Barrett Machine and Iron Works, eventually wants to be a gas or oil line pipe fitter and after graduation from Hobart is interested in working in North Dakota, where those industries are booming.

Dan and Pam Hamric are proud of their son. At age 15, Josh told them he wanted to attend West Virginia University, but for all the wrong reasons.

He knew that instead he should pursue his passion of welding.

“You don’t find a lot of teenagers mature enough to come to that conclusion,” Dan Hamric said. “Not many people follow their dreams nowadays, and that’s what I see him doing.”

The cost for the 36-week structural and pipe welding program Josh will take at Hobart is $15,145.

Besides their love and skill for welding, Joyce Ray sees another similarity between her son and Josh.

“Jonathan really had a kind heart,” she said. “He was open-minded and non-critical. Maybe that’s something they have in common.”

The average welder is 57 years old. About 450,000 people are employed in the profession, and about 25,000 begin their career each year, according to the American Welding Society.

Approximately 95 percent of all manufactured products require some sort of welding, and it is estimated that about 240,000 welders will be needed by 2019.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com