Chef Ray Melton to Retire

From the April 1999 Omicron Oracle.

Ray Melton, Omicron's chef extraordinaire for more than 23 years, will retire at the end of this school year. A gala dinner is planned for this month in his honor.

When Ray came to Omicron Zeta, Gerald Ford was in the White House, the Dow Jones Industrials had just passed the 1,000 mark, and most of Cornell 's class of 1999 had not yet been born. Of all the people who have lived and worked at 125 Edgemoor Lane over the years, this chef extraordinaire has stayed the longest.

"There's no bad things to remember," Ray says. " Il's been a great place to work, a dream job. I've learned more being there." As much as Ray is fond of the brothers of Lambda Chi Alpha, the feeling is decidedly mutual.

"My favorite Ray moment," says Scott Alessandro '96, "was when I was an AM and we made him into King Ray. We draped a blanket around his shoulders and put a Burger King hat on his head and gave him a serving spoon as a scepter. We had the brothers line up outside the door of the chapter room . We blindfolded them and led them inside one at a time, making them kneel in front of King Ray. Then we asked Ray if they were worthy. Ray, of course, would say no."

In the years before Ray, Omicron had a long series of cooks who, for the most part, stayed only a couple of years— if indeed that long. Ray, in fact, originally was to be only a temporary employee. In 1976, the house's full -time chef was in a car accident. and Ray was hired for a six-week stint. After two days, he was offered the job on a permanent basis.

Born in Ithaca in 1937 and raised there, Ray Melton worked in the early 1960s at Ithaca College, then moved to Pennsylvania and Delaware for a short time. Coming back to Ithaca, he met Lillie, who was born in the South. They lived together in Northside; at the time, Ray was working at Morse Chain. His next job was with Omicron Zeta.

In the early '80s, after a disagreement, Lillie moved to California. As Ray put it, he didn't realize how much he loved her until then. Eventually the brothers, headed by lon Turell '81, paid tp fly Lillie back to Ithaca. After she returned , Ray proposed to her. They were married in March.

Ray has three children from a previous marriage: Chris, 40, who works at the Los Angeles Times newspaper; Leonard, 36, a chef in Atlanta, and Ralph, 31, a chef in Dover, Delaware.

He isn't a wimp. "Ray went to a food show in Horseheads one time," Scott remembers, "and we went along. He liked to bring a bunch of brothers so we could take everything not bolted down. Ray was mad at this vendor who was supposed to get us some hot wings—his name was Stretch. When Ray saw Stretch, he grabbed a knife from some guy carving roast beef and went up to Stretch and started yelling at him asking where his hot wings were. We were all laughing hysterically. Finally Stretch calmed Ray down when he offered him a bunch of free stuff."

Every brother has a "Ray story" to tell, and many will be told at his retirement dinner. But as one brother commented: "Most of my Ray memories aren 't really stories, but just great times hanging out with him. He is the coolest."

For his part, Ray has some parting advice for the next chef, and for future brothers. To his successor, he says: "Always remember you are older than the students, and you need to be more patient. Be there to listen and talk; never judge."

And to his fellow brothers: "Remember, Lambda Chi Alpha is a great place to be, and don't do anything to hurt its name. There are always great guys coming through the door."