Jonathan Ray knows what it’s like to lose someone.
He spent 22 years as a pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps, and “I lost a lot of friends in aviation and in war,” he said.
He also knows the power of a final goodbye. His new business, Rest on High, aims to use his aviation expertise to help families give their loved ones a dignified and peaceful final send-off.
Rest on High offers aerial ash scatterings from Ray’s vintage 1963 Cessna 172. Ray designed and made a specialized chute for the aircraft, which he is considering patenting.
The business is licensed in Richland, and Ray – an FFA-certified commercial and airline transfer pilot – has a state permit allowing him to handle the disposition of remains.
“We care about people and we understand the significance of loss,” Ray said. “We will provide that dignity and respect that someone would hope for when it comes to their loved ones.”
Ray runs Rest on High with his wife, Eileen Griffin, and his father-in-law, Harold Griffin. He serves as the pilot, and they help with the business end of the venture.
Ray’s aviation resume is lengthy. During his more than two decades in the Marine Corps, he did everything from serving as a maintenance pilot to flying combat missions.
He was a pilot on the Marine One Presidential Flight Detachment during the Reagan administration, and he managed the presidential fleet of aircraft during Bill Clinton’s time in the White House. He also served as the commanding officer of a Marine squadron based in California.
He retired in 2000 as a lieutenant colonel.
Ray has continued working in the skies in the civilian world. He currently manages aviation and flies for a major corporation.
He decided to start Rest on High as he looks toward retirement, saying he wanted to find a way to keep flying while also doing meaningful work that fulfills a mission.
Rest on High offers that.
In times past, families often lived and died in the same community, so there was always someone around to pay respects, tend to graves and so on, he said.
“Now, with families spreading out, your brother might be on one side of the U.S., your sister on another and your parents down south– it becomes increasingly difficult,” Ray said.
Aerial ash scattering provides another option for families – one that can be freeing, Ray said.
“People say that (it provides) a feeling of great relief,” he said. “They feel like they’re setting their loved one free into the winds aloft. They’re setting them free into nature.”
Families can choose the geographic location of the release, subject to federal and state regulations and laws, and they can opt to witness the release from the ground. Other add-ons include a video of the release, or rose petals or wildflower seeds included in the release.
Rest on High can release both human and pet cremation ashes. The price starts at $450.
For Ray, who built a career and finds peace in the skies, being able to offer the service is deeply meaningful.
He spent months upon months building the business and crafting, testing and perfecting the chute. He also took great care in choosing the business’ name.
“It resonated with me,” Ray said. “It seemed to capture the feeling of setting people free into the winds aloft so they can just eternally rest.”
Go to: restonhigh.com.
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