The Stratford Historical Society
Stratford Historical Society Box 382
Docent Pot Luck Luncheon August 30th, 2015
  (Move cursor over the slide show to pause the presentation.)

By Dolores Hoctor

On Friday, August 28 the docents of the Stratford Historical Society gathered in the Museum for a Pot Luck Lunch and program. After a lunch of salads, baked beans, Swedish meat balls, rolls, homemade bread and butter and a platter of cold cuts with lemonade and iced tea followed by an assortment of incredible desserts, the presentation began.

Ginny Reinhard of the Orange Historical Society and daughter of Garo Ray shared with the group the remarkable odyssey of her father, Mr. Ray, who restored the eighteenth century Astor Pianoforte that has graced the West Room of Judson House since 1971.

He was an Armenian growing up in Turkey at the time of Armenian persecutions. In 1916 he was given a scholarship to the Robert College of Electrical Engineering, an American institution in Istanbul run by the Presbyterian Church where he spent six years learning everything he could for the ultimate goal of becoming an American citizen.

After receiving an award of $250 he made his way to Greece and then to America. Speaking and writing perfect English and able to play the organ and piano as well as being a trained engineer, he arrived in New York City in 1923 working at various jobs in the communications field as well as engineering. He later married, raised a family, bought a house in Stratford, Connecticut and in it built an organ.

He visited Judson House in the nineteen fifties during its renovation and there he discovered an antique pianoforte in pieces once owned by the Johnson family of Stratford, loaned to Mount Vernon where it remained for over fifty years, and eventually returned to Stratford and the Historical Society.

After a year of fabricating, assembling, refinishing, and tuning it to playable condition, he returned it to Judson House where it is now on display in the West Room. Although it is no longer played, there is a tape (CD) that represents how it sounded at the time of its restoration and that is played for visitors.