A Celebration

by Tina Auxillou

RAYMOND DENNIS AUXILLOU Jr., my father, was fondly known as “Captain Ray” by the local Reef community of Caye Caulker and his Sail buddies worldwide; “Raymundo the Magician” by some of his oldest & dearest friends who remember his brief early years as a traveling magician; the familiar “RAY” or “DAD” or “Grandpa” as his children and grandchildren referred to him, was 75 at the time of his death, after fighting a valiant battle he eventually lost to Cancer.

Ray is one of three children of Tina and Raymond Auxillou, Sr. born on November 11, 1937 in Sheppards Bush, London, England just before World War II. He recalls his childhood, playing in bombed out ruins of brick buildings and of being buried alive twice with his mother during German air raids, eventually being dug out by rescuers alive due to small steel cages people had in their basements.
In 1945, his father was a Colonel with the British Army posted in Vienna, Austria and his family was allowed to join him. He lived in Austria from 1945 to 1949 which led to additional war stories prevalent of his childhood.

His father Ray Sr. immigrated to Canada with the family when Ray Jr. was 12 years old to begin a new life. 
Once in Canada, the family settled near Woodstock, Ontario where the ice on the one room cabin walls were an inch thick, Ray Jr. recalled, yet he noted they ate better than in Europe or England where people were dying of starvation.

By the age of 15 in Canada, Ray entered a Boy Soldier Program which led to joining the Reserve. He stayed a short period and made it to the rank of Sergeant. During these young years, Ray fathered two children,  Mark and Stephen Auxillou.  Ray's beloved eldest sons were raised in Canada and  fathered him three granddaughters, and one great-grandaughter. One of them, Isabelle spent a month helping him to build his final home in Cayo , and he cherished those moments with her. She is the only daughter of his predeceased son Steve. 

Ray's childhood spent in different countries had already created a wander-lust in him and he wanted to see more. He often hitch-hiked around California and  other cities in the US and Canada singing for his supper with a Ukelele. Adventure made him happy and he desired a way to make his dream come true. A wild holiday at the Tropicana Hotel in Cuba in 1959 saw him with Castro as they entered Havana. This fateful trip changed the course of his life forever. He fell in love with the joy of life of the exotic people, the mesmerizing colors of the sea, the warm weather; the overall sounds and flavors of the Caribbean. He fell in love with the life of a revolutionary and imagined it. 

Not enthused with the idea of returning to a chilly Canadian existence, Ray extended his three week vacation permanently, making a mad dash for adventure. He hitch-hiked his way to Mexico by boat and eventually ended up in British Honduras via route “the Gringo trail”, which led him to Caye Caulker. He arrived flat broke in 1960,  a place he always called home. 

Newly arrived in British Honduras, and the “God forsaken, fly ridden island of Caye Caulker”, then with a tiny population and few families just minutes from a most sensational Barrier Reef, he found his nirvana, despite the pestering mosquitos. He felt welcomed on this tiny island and met an island beauty, the daughter of an original settler to the isle, they were soon married. 

Hurricane Hattie, one of the most destructive Hurricanes to hit former British Honduras, pounded on the isle and Country shores in 1961, not long after he had arrived. Ray maneuvered himself useful and became the Governor’s representative for Caye Caulker in the aftermath and rebuilding process.
The Hattie recovery was a time of candle lights, lanterns, and Outhouses perched over rickety driftwood docks. Ray found plenty of time to have children with his new wife, Ilna Alamina Auxillou, a series of girls in quick succession, eventually giving him another 10 grandchildren. 

He had married into the Alamina family of boat builders and was quick to acquire knowledge of the trade as he was with every other trade he self taught over the years. It wasn’t long before he was seen on the beach building himself a sailboat, then another, perhaps even a dozen which he sailed from Cozumel to Honduras and regularly out front his home at the Barrier Reef and surrounding Atolls, usually with gregarious young adventurous tourists. He would snorkel, fish; dive for sport and profit long before it became popular and the mainstream of island income.

For a short period, he was a School Teacher at the Catholic Primary School on Caye Caulker after obtaining an Associate Degree from a local Teacher’s College in Belize, around the same time dabbled on the side as a Magician.

“RayMundo the Magician” would perform shows with his Magic Illusion and Tricks for the local community as well as had the opportunity to travel to several Magic Conventions in US & UK in the 1970’s, once performing at the Marco Polo Hotel in Miami Beach.

Ray bought a piece of beach land in the village Center of Caye Caulker next to his new extended family in the early 1970's and built himself one of the first hotel’s to exist on Caye Caulker. With a passion for sailing aboard his prized "Atoll Queen",  he gave his children a deep appreciation for nature and the Reef with constant extended educational family trips at sea. 

With the plot of land, he decided to venture into the un-chartered Tourist Business on Caye Caulker, a place where few hippies would come get lost. He reinvented himself as Hotelier; Tour Guide, Dive Instructor before those were common trades.

With a sense of humor, and in his own effort to publicize the Blue Hole as a destination for tourists in the 70’s, he and a group returning on a long sail back to the Caye from a dive trip, humorously concocted a story for the media about encountering a “Blue Hole Monster” complete with signed affidavits from the tourists. Ray imagined he could gain worldwide media attention for Belize, the former British Honduras, and tourists would flock to the Blue Hole and surrounding islands with similar effect as “Nessie” did for Lockness and Scotland. British Honduras back then was quoted as being “in the middle of nowhere and on the way to nowhere”. The story was carried in the National Papers and perhaps beyond. Older  folks who remember, still joked about the clever hoax with him to the end.

He obtained his Merchant Marine Captain’s License and sailed the Caribbean Seas with cargo aboard the “Winnie Estelle”; a Marine Diesel Mechanic by force to service his small fleet of sailboats, piloted small aircrafts,  Paraglided off the French Alps in his 60's and broke a leg upon landing, it didn't phaze him. He spent a few years in Miami building himself a Pitenpol airplane in the back yard which no one exactly volunteered to join him in a maiden voyage, and it never got off the ground. He taught himself several musical instruments and in my childhood, entertainment meant everyone sitting on a pier with some type of instrument playing music. 
Ray found a passion for writing and over the years chronicled some of his adventures and self-published about a dozen novels or handbooks all set in British Honduras or Belize. He enjoyed all the above as an amateur.

The hotel burned at the end of 1979, about the same time his wife got fed up that he was more often away sailing than at home, they divorced. Ray left Belize for half a decade or so, took off on an extended voyage to discover other islands, living on a beach in Dominica long enough until he built himself a boat to sail  and discover the nearby islands, which he did for a few years. 

Around the mid 1980’s, he settled in Miami. Fresh from sailing the Caribbean and back in a big city life after so many years, Ray couldn’t bear to live in a house and persuaded a friend of his to live on his yacht in a harbor at Coconut Grove a few years before he bought his own sailboat. He often made trips to the Bahamas Captaining this boat with his friend, . During this time, he had a relationship with a Canadian and she bore him his last child, a son Ryan Andrew MacKenzie.

While in Miami, he met his wife Sylvia Pinzon who became the love of his life. I envied their relationship, it was of pure love, admiration and respect for each other and he was very happy the last decades of his life he spent with her. Eager to make his last move, Ray convinced Sylvia to retire and move back to Belize with him. They lived in San Ignacio a life of retirement. To  pass the time away, Ray morphed into a Day Trader, organized low-key Marimba Festivals, grew a vegetable garden and started a blog called “Western Belize Happenings”.  He was passionate about Belize and loved to be a part of the culture stirring up controversy sparking debate on the Culture-list gave him always a good chuckle.  He and Sylvia took time to travel the region and he loved his dogs which were also good company.

Raymond Dennis Auxillou, Jr. lived a full interesting adventurous life, exactly as he wanted and said if he had to do it over again, he would change very little. He was the first to inspire us to travel and lead independent lives. I am very much now like my father was then, with a deep appreciation for the simple beauty of life, joy to live & desire to see new destinations. He has left a deep impression on me.  He is sorely missed by all those who loved him.

Farewell Father, Husband, Grandfather, Uncle, Brother, Son, Friend, may your legacy continue with the Auxillou Clan and May you find Rest in Peace.

He is survived by his wife Sylvia Pinzon, one sister Annette, Six children, Mark, Sharon, Wendy, Diane, Tina Auxillou & Ryan Andrew MacKenzie; 13 wonderful grandchildren, Kathleen Auxillou; Tamara Auxillou; Isabelle Auxillou; Stephan Urscheler; Marlise Urscheler, Justin Kuylen, Cody Kuylen, Dillon Kuylen, Tyler Auxillou Loeper, Giselle de la Fuente, Zoe de la Fuente, Bianca de la Fuente and Blayd Vernon; one great grandchild Gemma Auxillou. He is  Pre-deceased by his parents Ray & Tina Auxillou , sister Louise Auxillou,  son Steve Auxillou.


Ray Auxillou and five of his Children, Sharon, Wendy, Tina, Mark and Diane


Mike Desabrais said…
I never met Ray, but I know tina and Ilna. They are both very strong individuals that I have much respect for. Thanks for this story Tina. A tear comes to my eye reading it as if I knew Ray. There are not many rocks on Caye Caulker, but if you find one, keep it in honor of your dad. Your memory of him is everlasting like the rock. Hold fast to his memory, it will guide you throughout the rest of your life. Peace my friend.