Ray Niehaus '45 played varsity football and baseball during his time at Central Catholic High School alongside his brother Russ '44. As an athlete and intensely loyal Ram, one of Ray's cherished possessions was his Central Catholic letterman sweater, expertly made by the renowned Dehen Knitting Company. After he graduated from Central Catholic, Ray's sweater went with him, first to Corvallis, where he briefly attended Oregon State on a Baseball scholarship, then to Florida and a two-year stint in the Coast Guard, where his favorite gig was working as a weatherman in Miami Beach.
After returning to Oregon, he attended and played baseball at Vanport College (the predecessor to what is now Portland State University) until the school was wiped out in the Memorial Day Flood of 1948. All the while Ray wore his Central Catholic letterman sweater with pride.
Feeling a calling to priesthood, Ray then entered Moreau Seminary at the University of Notre Dame to study under the Congregation of Holy Cross. At that time, seminarians were not allowed to bring any apparel with logos. That included high school letterman gear, so Ray was forced to leave his treasured Central Catholic sweater behind in Portland. Eventually, his dad wore it out and the sweater was lost.
Ray's life path continued to unfold. After two years at Moreau Seminary and another three at Mt. Angel Seminary, he returned to Notre Dame for a final semester and concluded that the life of a priest was not for him. So, he returned to Oregon and earned bachelor's and master's degrees, in both Education, at the University of Portland. His first teaching job was at Crook County High School in Prineville and in 1957, he became a founding member of the faculty that opened James Madison High School in northeast Portland, where he remained until his retirement in 1988. Throughout his career as an educator, Ray taught Latin, English, Philosophy, and a course called "The Bible as Literature," among other things. He was a college counselor and of course, a baseball coach. Along the way, Ray married Mary Cacicia; they were blessed with 63 years together and had three children, Lori, Matt and Michael. But he never forgot his time at Central Catholic, nor that treasured letterman sweater.
Recently, Ray's son Matt collaborated with Dehen Knitting Company, now known as Dehen 1920, to create a custom-made Central Catholic letterman jacket. Ray was genuinely surprised and very, very happy to receive it.
Once a letterman, always a letterman. Once a Ram, always a Ram.
*Thank you to Matt Niehaus, for sharing this story.