Southwest Oklahoma's Resource For News and Entertainment
Tuesday April 23rd 2019

I Am Raymond

The wheels made a thumping sound each time the wagon rolled across a crack in the sidewalk, and he felt the vibrations as he held on to the sides of that little Red Flyer, as he did each day that his mother pulled him along behind her, as she ran her errands. It was from that vantage point that the first images of Lawton, Oklahoma were etched into Raymond’s mind. What he couldn’t know at the time, was that he would one day become etched into Lawton’s history, as well.

Born Raymond McAlister on December 18, 1957, he has become a staple of the City of Lawton and for over half a century, in his own unique way, he has been leaving his mark on the community. While many have seen him, few really know him.

I remember the first time I really met Raymond”, says C. H. Brazzel, a long-time friend. “I was working security at an Eisenhower-Lawton High football game at Cameron Stadium in 1978.” Brazzel, a Sergeant with the Lawton Police Department, remembers that encounter well.

He walked up to me as he was leaving the game, and introduced himself. ‘I am Raymond, I need to come see you.’ I introduced myself and told him that would be fine, and he said, ‘Give me one of your cards.’”

Brazzel was unsure why Raymond singled him out among all of the other officers that were working that night long ago, but that encounter led to a friendship that has lasted almost 35 years.

He showed up at my office the following Monday morning,” recalls Brazzel, “he walked in and said, ‘I need to use your phone’, and he began to make calls.” Who was he calling? “I don’t know,” says Brazzel, “but he was calling somebody,” exhibiting a smile reflecting both humor and admiration.

Raymond became a regular at the Lawton Police Department, eventually being given his own locker, and while safety measures were never breached, he was allowed to come and go and was even given his own “work station” complete with telephone. He had a regular presence at the station until 1998.

When I retired,” recalls Brazzel, “Raymond received a certificate at my ceremony.”

Raymond called Lawton his home until, at the age of 32, he moved to Chickasha, Oklahoma for a brief time. Following the death of his mother in 1985, he lived with his stepfather. In 1989 he moved in with relatives in the Chickasha area. Finding himself in an area he was unfamiliar with and where he knew basically no one, Raymond found life more difficult than it already was, given his challenged condition. It was decided by family members that he would be better served in an environment designed for those with special needs, so he was moved into a group home in Anadarko, Oklahoma.

During this time C. H. Brazzel kept in contact with Raymond, and realizing the additional challenges he was facing in the group home, made arrangements to have him moved back to Lawton in December of 1989. “He was far more capable than most of the other residents at the group home,” Brazzel remembers, “and when we got him back to Lawton, we arranged to have him move into a rent house, and he has lived independently since that time.”

Jacky Yoast, a Lawton resident and another long-time friend of Raymond’s, remembers going to Anadarko with his wife, Priscilla, to bring Raymond back to Lawton.

Raymond is much smarter than most people realize,” he states, adding, “He’s unique, but he’s pretty smart.”

Yoast has spent many years around Raymond, helping care for him, along with Brazzel, and even hired Raymond to work for him in his bricklaying business before he retired. Yoast’s love for Raymond is as evident as Brazzel’s, as he recounts the years he has known his special friend.

Raymond went to school for 27 years,” he states, referring to his years attending the Robert E. Greiner’s School for the Handicapped in Lawton. Brazzel remembers asking Raymond once why he no longer attended, and Raymond replied, “I graduated.”

I’ll tell you how smart the guy is,” says Yoast, “his doctor diagnosed him as diabetic a few months ago, and Raymond started doing what the doctor told him to do, and he changed his eating habits, lost weight and now he’s not diabetic anymore”.

Raymond’s commitment to being healthier hasn’t waned either, as Yoast found out when he pulled up to Raymond’s house recently, holding a bag of Cheetos out of the truck window for Raymond to take. Raymond promptly told him, “You know I can’t eat those anymore.”

Raymond and I kid each other a lot”, says Yoast, “and whenever I tell him he can’t do something, he tells me, ‘Hide and watch.’”

Yoast admits that more than once, Raymond has threatened to tell C. H. Brazzel on him.

He’s quick to remind me that C. H. is a police officer,” laughs Yoast. He was reminded of that recently when he pulled his car over to the side of the road after seeing flashing lights behind him, only to have Brazzel approach his car. “Now you have something to tell Raymond about,” Brazzel told him, smiling.

Raymond has a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and has found an outlet for utilizing it in many facets of Lawton life. Seldom will an event take place in Lawton or the surrounding area where Raymond is not in attendance. And attending is not all that he does.

During racing season, Raymond can be seen waving the flags each Saturday night at Lawton Speedway, where he has an assigned location, and has been given his own set of flags. He attends local high school football, baseball, basketball and soccer games on a regular basis, where he can be found helping lead the band, following his announcements on the sidelines, spoken into a microphone given to him as a gift. While his words are only transmitted through the wire which goes into his pocket, Raymond’s intensity and passion for the play-by-play audio he provides rivals that of the professionals.

In addition to local high school games, he enjoys Cameron softball and baseball games, in addition to helping keep score at the Comanche County Basketball Tournament each year. His notes are as meticulous as those recorded into the books by the officials, written on a yellow legal pad in his own unique script.

My favorite is scoring the bull-riding,” Raymond says with excitement, referencing his most recent participation in the 74th Annual Lawton Rangers Rodeo, which he attended each night.

Very few parades have taken place in Lawton over the years in which Raymond did not take part. “His entry is the ‘Decorated Bicycle’ category,” Brazzel explains. Raymond’s red bicycle, adorned with the colors and flags of every local and state team imaginable, is ridden proudly by him from start to finish.

Raymond is not shy about public speaking, as evidenced by his willingness to announce upcoming events on many occasions at meetings of the City Council. He appears to feel compelled to remind others of the happenings which bring him so much joy. His largest audience was about 350 people, gathered in Little Rock, Arkansas for the McAlister Family Reunion, which he attended with Jacky and Priscilla Yoast a few years ago.

Raymond has made a place for himself in the city he calls home, and whether he is reading the newspaper at a local restaurant, scoring local sporting events, helping direct a marching band, or riding in a parade, he does it with energy, drive and ambition. To Raymond, each and every task he does is real, and he gives it his all.

While faced with learning disabilities and challenges that most people don’t have, and even though he attended school longer than the majority of people, he has managed to become just as much of a teacher, as he has a student. In today’s world, society hears a lot about “tolerance”, “acceptance” and “being optimistic,” traits which most agree would make our world a better place in which to live. We even look for these qualities in our leaders. Maybe we should all be watching and learning from Raymond.

Raymond has no choice but to face life with challenges, and yet, he wakes up every day ready for another adventure, another chance to find purpose. And he never doubts he will find it. He wants everyone to be a winner, and will support and cheer for every team, regardless of school allegiance, because he realizes that enjoying the game that is being played is more important than the final score.

He tolerates a lot. The object of those who are immature, Raymond is sometimes the brunt of cruel jokes, but he acknowledges no validity to these comments. Rather, he ignores the criticism, choosing to continue serving his community in his own unique way, while most of those who may criticize him are hard-pressed to find “serving the community” on their own resumes. Raymond attends more community events in a year than many people attend in their lifetimes, and finds purpose in doing so, with enthusiasm and energy.

Raymond doesn’t care about your ethnic background; he doesn’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat, or any other political party; he doesn’t care about your personal choice of lifestyle, your education level, your net worth or even your religious beliefs. He views life simpler than that. If you’re nice to him, he will be nice to you. He doesn’t judge you, so he expects you not to judge him. He simply wants to know how he can help. He seeks purpose in his life, and he desires to make a positive difference in this world. And just like everyone else with a good heart that is given that chance, he will.

If you don’t believe that…just hide and watch.