Heath and Vaughn Funeral Home - Champaign Il

Today is

Ray Franklin Boehmer

The full and vibrant life of Ray Boehmer, 71 of Urbana, came to an unexpected end on Thursday, April 19.
boehmerRay Franklin Boehmer was born in Woodstock, Illinois, on August 9, 1946, and grew up in nearby Wauconda. His father, Kenneth A. Boehmer, ran the local Chevrolet dealership, and his mother, Marguerite A. Pence, was a homemaker. Ray was the second of five siblings, with two brothers and two sisters. He was a member of the Wauconda High School Class of 1964. In 1968, Ray graduated from North Central College in Naperville. From there he joined the Peace Corps, serving two years in Calí, Colombia, where he became fluent in Spanish. He was awarded a Master’s Degree in Education by the University of Illinois in 1974 and in 1981 earned a Doctor of Education in science education from the same institution.
Ray first met Liesel Wildhagen when they were Trivial Pursuit partners at a holiday gathering. Ray knew the science and geography answers, Liesel the music and popular culture; together they beat the other teams soundly. They later married on April 27, 1986, at a friend’s home on the Sangamon River. Ray was an extremely involved and supportive father to their son Tad, now a librarian at Michigan State University.

From 1998 until his retirement in 2016, Ray was a professor of science education in the School of Education at Millikin University in Decatur. Prior to that he taught at the University of Illinois and Illinois Wesleyan University, as well as in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, and at a public high school in Los Angeles. He was a member of numerous professional organizations, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Illinois Science Teachers Association, as well as groups that reflected his personal interests and concerns, including the American Radio Relay League, the Illinois Audubon Society, the Illinois Native Plant Society, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and many others.

Ray was preceded in death by his parents and his younger brother, Dennis. Family members who will miss him include his wife and son; brother Steve Boehmer (Dawn), of Cary, Illinois; sisters Jean Wolff (Dan), of Las Vegas, Nevada, and Sue Bailey (Fred), of Phoenix, Arizona; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Ray was always an educator, by profession and by nature. He spent his career preparing thousands of college students to become educators themselves. In retirement he volunteered in Spanish-speaking classrooms at Leal School in Urbana. Every conversation with Ray was an education, as his interests and reading spanned a broad range of topics, including science, politics, philosophy, birds, ecology, religion, and social justice. A friend commented, “Ray had a gift for making us feel interesting. He always wanted to ask questions and find out what we were doing rather than tell us about his activities, but when he did talk, he told colorful stories!”

Ray’s physical abilities were limited by infant polio that deprived him of the use of one leg. This, however, did not diminish his adventuresome spirit and served to enhance his resourcefulness. For example, as an avid birdwatcher, he took birding excursions with friends to Newfoundland, South Africa, England and Wales, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Colombia, among others. He participated in annual bird counts in Illinois and made trips to numerous destinations across the country. His other hobbies included raising orchids and being a Ham Radio operator, which he was for over 55 years, and through which he made friends all over the globe. Many who did not know him personally recognized him from his sturdy walking stick that allowed him greater mobility. Walking with Ray necessitated slowing down and being mindful of each step, an apt metaphor for his influence.

In recognition of Ray’s love for birdwatching and for wildlife conservation, his family would like to invite his friends to join them at Busey Woods in Urbana at any time between 2 and 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 2, for a walk along the trails at their own pace.

Also on May 2, from 4.30 to 6.30 pm, there will be a gathering in celebration of Ray’s life at Riggs Beer Company, 1901 S. High Cross Road, Urbana, with words delivered from several close friends, including John Powell and David Enstrom. Those who are unable to be in town are invited to seek out a bird and raise a glass to Ray on May 2.

Memorial contributions may be made to Illinois Audubon Society or to Planned Parenthood of Illinois (302 E. Stoughton, Suite 2, Champaign, 61820, or online). The Ray Boehmer Memorial Award for Excellence in Science Education is being established at Millikin University. Checks written to Millikin designating the fund as a recipient may be mailed to Millikin University, 1184 W. Main St., Decatur, IL 62522.

Heath and Vaughn Funeral Home, 201 N. Elm, Champaign, is assisting the family with arrangements.

Condolences to the family may be offered online at www.Heathand Vaughn.com.


I met Ray only briefly one evening at the Krannert Center for the Performing Center but was immediately impressed by his mental quickness and good humor. Knowing Tad over the years while attending events at the RBML, I could see how much his father influenced him as well, of course, as Liesel, when we all shared some delightful hours discussing our university’s various important manuscript collections. Tad and Liesel – you are in our thoughts, 

Sincerest condolences, 

Astrid and John Dussinger


Whoever wrote the obituary  certainly did “Moncho” justice. We met when I first arrived in Cham’bana in 1977 straight out of Peace Corps in Costa Rica. We connected as RPCVs and Spanish speakers. In our grad student poverty, Ray orchestrated salad parties at his place. A small group with a broad array of backgrounds, perspectives, and prospects would each bring something to put in the bowl. I guess it was a leafy version of “stone soup.” We generally also brought beer, wine, occasionally musical instruments, and inquisitive, sharing attitudes inspired by our host.

Moncho, or Monchito, as I preferred to call him, was a wonderful guy, a great friend during our time there together, a lover of life and learning, music, fun, and also very serious and deep thought. We managed to meet a few times over the past several decades, mostly during the years my in-laws lived in Champaign. I always felt Moncho’s greatest joys came from his family, learning, travel, and teaching.

Wish I could join you and the others gathering to honor Moncho, but I’ll seek a bird and toast him from here in Colorado on May 2.

I am honored to have known him, send prayers of comfort in your loss, and, of course, join you in being saddened by his passing.

Jim Pollicita


I met Ray Boehmer in a summer course in Champaign in 1973.  I think the course was Comparative Education and Ray was the star student because of his experiences in Colombia and in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.  I met Jackie the month before and we married several years after.  I taught in in the same school as Ray the year before he did and Jackie taught there the year after.  Ray taught the group of students in eighth grade that I had taught in seventh grade.  Our lives have been entwined like that ever since.  I recall camping together in Illinois, especially in the Shawnee National Forest, and Wisconsin, sharing the cabin in Minnesota, and an epic trek to southern Arizona and back.  The constants throughout were Ray’s humor and enthusiasm and, of course, birds and beers.  His passion for birding infected us.  We tried to visit every time we were in Champaign for family events.  We shared parallel careers, trials and triumphs, many laughs, a few insights, and a few beers.  We’re sorry we couldn’t attend the memorial but spent the afternoon in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey area and the evening at Highlands Hollow brew pub, our local pub.  Ray would have appreciated both places.

Liesel and Tad, we can only imagine the loss you feel.  We will miss Ray and think of him every time we spot a bird or have a beer, both of which happen regularly.  We will think of you too and hope to see you when we visit Champaign.  You are in our thoughts.  Take care.

Ted Singletary & Jackie Jarboe

Boise, Idaho


Dear Liesel and Tad,

Brian and I were so sad to learn of Ray’s passing. We have such fond memories of Ray. Brian remembers vividly a birding trip he went on with Ray, Earl and Jim Lichtenstein. Ray was without a doubt the best birder we knew. We also remember his 33and 1/3 birthday party. The 33 and 1/3 is lost on young people today as the speed of a vinyl album, and Ray was so clever to link that to becoming 1/3 of a century old! What youngsters we were then and didn’t know it. We also remember Ray telling us about eating bugs and caterpillars to see what they tasted like, until he ate a very bitter beetle. All these memories highlight Ray’s zest for life and his unstoppable sense of humor.

My favorite memory of Ray is when you came to the Cape to visit. We went on a whale watch and I think we saw a number of whales. But more personally, I remember our daughter Shannon playing with Tad and enjoying a chance to be a “big sister.” We went to South Cape Beach and the kids had so much fun playing in the sand and the ocean.

It seems impossible that he is gone, but he will live on in our hearts and in the good works that he started. We are members of Audubon because we knew Ray, and we will be donating in his memory to the Illinois Audubon Society.

With much love and sincere sympathy,

Brian and Karen Dixon