In memoriam: Ray York

Raymon Alan “Ray” York, former president & CEO of Ewing Outdoor Supply and Landscape Products, passed away January 24, 2024, after a brief illness. He was 86.

Ray was born August 4, 1937, in Wichita, Kansas, and grew up in Twin Falls, Idaho. Ray will be remembered as an innovative, ground-breaking businessman, an advocate for continual education and a leader in the green industry. He was passionate about his family, his extended family of employees and Ewing’s customers, and was known to personally scout new business opportunities in communities in need of a dedicated, reliable green industry distributor.

He and his wife and business partner of 63 years, Susan “Sue” Ewing York, met at Stanford University in spring 1959, a few months before he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial engineering. Ray and Sue married in November 1960, a few months after her graduation from Stanford. She joined him in Idaho, where they worked side by side at his family’s meat packing plant and started their family, welcoming twin sons, David and Douglas, in November 1961 and younger son, Richard, in January 1963.

In December 1963, they returned to San Francisco to take over Ewing’s daily operations from King William Ewing, Sue’s father and the company’s founder.

Together, they laid a foundation that fostered Ewing’s growth from two brick-and-mortar stores serving the landscape, golf and industrial industries in the Bay Area into the more than 100-year-old, fourth-generation national distribution powerhouse that it is today.

Another aspect of the solid foundation Ray and Sue built for Ewing was introducing their sons to the business early. Ray loved to talk about how his boys started out weeding store grounds, cleaning the warehouse, washing delivery trucks and counting parts starting in elementary school, and took on more responsibility as they grew, ultimately running branches during high school. During college, all three worked with him to find, open and run new locations, and Richard worked with him in purchasing.

In 1985, Ewing began implementing his plans to expand operations outside California, opening its first branch in Phoenix. In 1994, Ewing relocated its headquarters from San Leandro, California, to Phoenix to better support its Eastern expansion.

In 2007, Ray and Sue officially turned over the reins of Ewing to their sons and moved over to Ewing’s manufacturing arm, Landscape Products, Inc., where Richard joined them in 2017.

They officially retired in 2023, and set off to tour the world. Over the last several decades, the pair explored all seven continents, with extensive travel in Asia, Africa, Antarctica and the South Pacific. Ray and Sue had planned to visit Ewing branches coast to coast throughout 2024. Unfortunately those plans would not come to be with Ray’s passing early in the year.

Ray was extremely proud that his sons helped him and Sue build Ewing into a world-class, socially responsible company and that their grandchildren also grew up learning the business from the ground up so they can carry on its rich legacy.

He also was proud of his longstanding membership and past chairmanship of the National Association of Wholesale Distributors and his membership and past presidency of the Irrigation Association. In 2007, the California Landscape Contractors Association honored Ray and Sue with Lifetime Achievement Awards for their contributions to the industry. In 2012, the Irrigation Association honored Ray and Sue with Industry Lifetime Achievement Awards for their 50 years of contributions to the green industry.

Ray is survived by his wife of 63 years, Helen “Sue” Ewing York; sons David (Julia), Douglas (Kelli) and Richard (Victoria) York; six grandchildren and one great-grandchild; and his sister, Marjorie Crosby.

In lieu of flowers, the York family prefers donations be made in Ray’s honor to the Franciscan Renewal Center ( Sue attends that parish and cherishes the Casa.