FALMOUTH — Dr. Ferris Ray, a renowned vascular surgeon at Maine Medical Center and a former leader of the Maine Surgical Care Group, died Saturday at the age of 83.

“He was our hero,” said Dr. Richard Dillihunt, who worked alongside Dr. Ray for 30 years. “He had the ability to pass along the basic information and the qualities he had to others, and all his students who became surgeons under his guidance were that much better for it.”

Originally from Eastport, Dr. Ray enrolled at the University of Maine and worked his way through undergraduate school. He attended Tufts for medical school, intending to return to Eastport and start a small family practice, said his daughter Kathy Ray.

“During his early training, he found out he had a skill and interest in surgery,” she said, and his teachers encouraged him to pursue a career as a surgeon.

The proudest moment of Dr. Ray’s 40-year career at Maine Medical Center came when he led the operating room team during the first kidney transplant in Maine, in October 1971.

“He was able to take it in stride and accomplish (the transplant) as if he’d been doing transplants for some time, even though it was the first one,” Dillihunt said.

Dr. Ray established his reputation by devoting his attention to vascular surgery, developing the new specialty and teaching it to medical residents, his colleague said. He also was known for strong doctor-patient relationships and his ability to improvise during operations to handle unexpected problems.

“Few surgeons are endowed with such confidence,” Dillihunt said. “His colleagues recognized (these traits) and accepted it with admiration, never with jealousy.”

Dr. Ray was a member of practically all of the local, regional and national societies pertaining to his specialty, Dillihunt said.

With an incredible work ethic, Dr. Ray dedicated himself to his career until he retired in 1989, his daughter said. He continued teaching residents and students and working in utilization review for the hospital until 1994.

During his retirement, he focused on his four children and attended his eight grandchildren’s various events. He also played bridge, golf and tennis, tended to his garden and honed his fly-fishing skills.

“I thought he’d be bored (during retirement), but he was always doing something,” his daughter said.

Kathy Ray said her father influenced her career choice, as well as her brother’s.

“My brother and I, we observed the immense gratification he got from helping people,” she said. “It was such a rewarding career for him. That’s what I took away from it.”

She said becoming a physician was an obvious choice for her.

“His values were in the right place,” she said. “He was just so inspiring.”

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]